By Matthew Marczi
Yesterday at head coach Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference—during which he was abnormally forthright and ingratiating—one reporter was so swept up in the new and improved Tomlin Experience that he was lulled into a false sense of security. In his docile state, he even went so far as to evoke the name of he who will not be named: Limas Sweed.
The reporter brought up Sweed in reference to Tomlin’s supposed history of taking away playing time from players who have failed to come up with a makeable play at key times in the past—in this instance, regarding Emmanuel Sanders.
Tomlin’s initial response was appropriate, and probably should have been the end of the discussion: “I don’t want to compare it to the Limas Sweed situation, but that’s going back and reaching”.
The reporter pressed on, however, which prompted an unusually verbose response from Tomlin to what is a rather silly question:
He’s made some plays for us too; obviously, he’s missed some plays, like everybody…Obviously, he didn’t make the play in that circumstance, obviously, there’ve been other circumstances where he had made plays, but I’m sure you could say the same about guys you might deem reliable like Antonio Brown or Heath Miller for that matter…so if I took that approach I wouldn’t be playing with any eligibles.
Emmanuel Sanders is not Limas Sweed. It’s not even close to a reasonable comparison. Sweed’s career highlight was a block downfield on a journeyman defensive back with his back turned.
Sanders has 58 receptions this year for 661 yards. He has a career-high five touchdowns, or five more than Sweed ever had. He averages 4.2 yards after contact per reception, for a total of 246 yards, or 37 percent of his total yardage, which is the result of having forced 10 missed tackles.
Over the past two seasons, Sanders has accumulated 102 receptions for 1287 yards and six touchdowns. Oh, and he hasn’t missed a game, for all of the worries stemming from the foot and knee injuries he suffered early in his career.
Sanders doesn’t deserve the Sweed treatment. Sure, there may be some resentment over his having signed with the New England Patriots and some pre-emptive angst over the strong possibility that he leaves for greener pastures in free agency after this season (can you blame him?), but his production is ignored far too often in favor of spotlighting the times that he doesn’t come through.
Miller doesn’t get that treatment. Brown doesn’t get that treatment. And believe me, they could have come through for the Steelers lots of times in which they’ve come up short. Sanders isn’t the type of player that is going to make every play every time, but he has been an asset to this team since he’s been drafted, and he’s a far cry from a bust. Leave Limas out of this.