Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – WR Emmanuel Sanders

By Matthew Marczi

End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.

Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.

Player: Emmanuel Sanders

Position: Wide Receiver

Experience: 4 Years

Emmanuel Sanders got the chance to be a full-time starter in 2013 when the entire wide receiver depth chart got reshuffled thanks to the departure of the head of the pyramid, Mike Wallace. Thus, Sanders move from the slot to the starting lineup, Antonio Brown became the top target, and Jerricho Cotchery took over the slot role after having very sporadic playing time in his first two seasons with the Steelers.

Did the team get the production out of their fourth-year receiver that they were expecting to get after being forced to match the one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet Sanders accepted from the New England Patriots? It’s a bit hard to say, but I would imagine it’s not the production Sanders himself hoped for.

For starters, while he came up with a career-high 740 receiving yards, that was still not even three-fourths of the way to a 1000-yard season that he said he expects out of himself when discussing 2013 during the offseason.

He also threw the 70-reception number out there, which he did come very close to, finishing with 67 catches on the year. The problem is that he averaged just 11 yards per catch. In comparison, Brown averaged 13.6 yards per catch and finished the season with more than twice Sanders’ yardage total on 110 receptions.

How to begin explaining the unimpressive yards per catch total? To start with, 17 of Sanders’ 67 receptions came behind the line of scrimmage, while another 34 came within the 0-9-yard range, so 51 of Sanders’ 67 catches came off passes aimed no deeper than nine yards down the field. Combine that with the fact that he had just six catches on passes aimed 20 or more yards down the field and we begin to paint a picture of not only how Sanders was used, but where he was successful.

In fact, Sanders was targeted on 23 passes 20 or more yards down the field, with by far his best success coming between the numbers, where he caught four of six targets. While he had only one drop on deep passes, the fact that a full 14 of 23 passes were uncatchable balls suggests that Sanders had trouble gaining separation from defenders on deep targets.

On the positive side, his six touchdowns is a reasonable total for a second receiver—Cotchery’s 10 touchdowns is obviously a significant outlier. Sanders’ mere 62 percent completion rate isn’t very pretty, but when you consider that his completion rate on passes within 19 yards was just under 72 percent, it paints a more accurate portrait.

Determining what Sanders is worth after this season is difficult, because his $2.5 million contract was in large part based on speculation of what he would do as a starter. By no means did he have a spectacular season, but did he show more than $2.5 million a season’s worth of play?

Could the Steelers afford to pay Sanders more than that per season, relative to the expected return on investment? Is that a luxury they can’t afford not to have, considering the only other current alternatives are Cotchery and Markus Wheaton? I’m sure the coaching staff is more interested in retaining him than is the front office.

Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – QB Ben Roethlisberger
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – WR Antonio Brown

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Rob H

    I’ve been saying for a while now that Sanders is a “decent” 3/slot type of receiver, but a lousy #2. We need a guy that can stretch the field a little bit, and most importantly one who can go out and get contested balls, and passes that aren’t thrown perfectly. I can’t fathom why any team (especially the Steelers) would want to sign this guy to be anything more than a slot receiver, even for that I personally would rather have somebody who is a little more clutch than him.


    I agree with Rob, they need someone at that #2 spot better than what Sanders is/was. Either Wheaton or a draft pick in 2014, (although Im not sure we should expect great production from a rookie wr.)

  • steeltown

    It’s hard to say what will happen with him, my guess is they move on considering all of the other players that need new contracts over the next 2yrs. He is worth the $2.5MIL we paid him, 67receptions and 6TDs is worth $2-3MIL but I wouldn’t pay him more than that…. he’ll want more than that

  • Virdin Barzey

    I really can’t see any reason to pay Sanders any more than what he is making now. Will some other team pay him more? Most likely, look at what they paid for Mike Wallet.

    I have no hate for Sanders but as a deep threat receiver, which is what he sees himself as, he is not. Way too many dropped especially in crucial moments. Can he make plays? Yes, but I think Wheaton will surpass him if he stays healthy.

    This one to me is a much easier decision to make especially when we have cap room issues and a number of defensive positions that need upgrading. Good luck Sanders wherever you end up.

  • Callentown

    In retrospect, it would have been better to have let him go to the Cheatriots and gain another pick.

    Not arguing with the stats above, but it sure seemed to me like he had a LOT of drops. Plus, he stood with his hands in the air in disgust while a fumbled ball was in play a couple of times that I saw. Immature.

    Not my favorite player and I hope he is gone.

  • dgh57

    I’ve been down on Sanders since the Bears, Vikings games where he couldn’t keep his focus and mind on the game action. Then the costly drop in the endzone in the Ravens game as time ran out. We also need a 2nd deep threat opposite A. Brown. Excessive TD celebrations and just the overall immaturity we could do without! Plenty of other fish in the sea in the upcoming draft so I’ll pass on Mr. Sanders!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Bye-bye. Have a good year next year please, as there will probably be some team that overpays you. Then the Steelers can get a good supplemental draft pick.

  • patrick Mayfield

    I really wish people changed my last name to Wallet in jest…

    A better comparison might be Nate Washington who was healthier than Sanders but he caught 40 balls for 631 yards and got poached for $27M/6 years. Stat’s wise pretty similar and he got $4M/yr 5 years ago.

    If he can make that kind on money, God bless and good luck, cause he shouldn’t see that here.

  • DrakePirate

    yup, we got our money’s worth but wheaton has much more upside as a slot receiver and can fill in a #2 for now if need be … would much rather them pick up a big bodied WR for the #2 and keep wheaton for the #3 slot .. and Cotch for 3rd downs/RZ and clutch plays as the 4th WR for now

  • DrakePirate

    i feel the same way, while although we got decent value for him this year .. i would have preferred the 3rd round pick had he gone to the pats

  • steeltown

    Very good point, I had forgotten that Nate Washington got $4+MIL per season after leaving, consider the fact that Sanders can also return kicks and could really see him getting 5+MIL per from some Team out there

  • Rob H

    The one thing you have to remember about Washington is, he had size, and was seen as a deep threat who could actually high point the ball, with the potential to get better. Sanders is what we’ve seen this season, and anybody who pays 5 mill a year for that has a lot of cap space, and very little brains.

  • steeltown

    Better comparison size wise might be Danny Amendola who also was plagued with injuries throughout his young career… he’s making $5+MIL

  • Rob H

    Yea I hear ya, and as long as it’s not us paying it, I’m fine with him getting what he can. If someone actually gives him that kind of money I’ll just shake my head and laugh.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I’m sure some team with overpay for Sanders. Never really saw the Steelers as an option for Sanders. I thought he was better suited for the slot and maybe that’s why he didn’t make a lot of plays on the outside. In the slot he can be pretty effective but on the outside just never saw him as someone who could stretch the field with his speed. Given his numbers and the fact he can return kicks he’s priced himself out of the Steelers market….2.5 million for one year was a good investment but i’m sure he can double that and a team will fork over 5-6 million a year for him. Wish him the best of luck he seems like a good team guy.

  • disqus_wdLdx4W76r

    Pay Cotchery and let Sander go..which they should have done last year and they’d have a 3rd rnd pick this year.He’s not the worse WR..he plays with heart and can make tough catches (pass radius) that drop against the Ratbirds you can’t really blame him for..the DB had him blockd out of eyesight. If they take a WR in the 1st 2 rounds they can have an Instant starter