Former Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders Prefers Peyton Manning’s Leadership

It certainly seems as though former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders likes to make frequent appearances on Denver sports radio, during which he often discusses working with Ben Roethlisberger compared to his new quarterback with the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning.

He was once again on Denver’s 104.3 The Fan on Thursday discussing the beginning of training camp and what it was like working with the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Pro Football Talk seized upon this appearance today, and naturally tried to make it sound as partisan as possible by stripping a sound bite of its context in order to promote their own idea.

The interview began with the hosts asking Sanders about how cool it is to work with Manning after practice with some of the other wide receivers. Later, he was asked, as he always is in every interview, what is different between Roethlisberger and Manning, and PFT naturally only included the passage below—minus the introductory caveat:

From a mental standpoint—and I don’t care to really say this—but I feel like Peyton’s a far better leader [than Roethlisberger] , in terms of staying after practice, catching balls, wanting guys to get on the same page with him, things of that sort. This is the first time that I’ve had a quarterback that…keeps guys like me…after practice, and we’re out there for 15-20 minutes. He’s not one of those guys that you’ve got to go chase down. He’s going to be right in the same spot, ready to work, every single day. I just feel like that’s a difference from a mental standpoint.

What the PFT article left out was all the positives that he said about Roethlisberger, and Sanders highlighted again that the main difference between the two quarterbacks is the system that they run, where the Steelers’ system is more constrained and balanced.

Asked if he prefers the Broncos’ method and this offense, Sanders said “of course”. He went on: “I guess my opinion is kind of biased, because of course what receiver doesn’t want to be in a spread offense? What receiver doesn’t want to be in a passing offense that’s going to throw it 40-50 times a game?”

He concluded: “I’ve got so much love for Ben. Ben has helped me out tremendously in so many ways, on and off the field. He’s made me a better player. But at the same time I’m not going to lie, I’m happy to be a part of this organization, and I’m happy to have Peyton Manning as my quarterback”.

Nobody is going to begrudge a wide receiver that would prefer to work with Manning over Roethlisberger. There’s no doubt that working with Manning was one of the driving forces behind Sanders choosing to go to Denver in free agency.

It is worth pointing out, however, that Roethlisberger is more like Manning in his work habits than he may realize. Perhaps it’s just a matter of Sanders not being as big a part of Roethlisberger’s preparation.

Remember, early in the offseason, Roethlisberger brought his young receivers out for a throwing session to help get them all on the same page, and it’s clear that that has been paying dividends for the likes of second-year players Markus Wheaton and Justin Brown. We’ve also seen time and again that Roethlisberger does extra work with his receivers. Alex Kozora noted recently that while the team was running special teams drills, Roethlisberger was working with Antonio Brown.

Like Manning is doing now with Sanders, Roethlisberger is providing extra attention to his own new veteran, Lance Moore, who is expected to be the Steelers’ new slot receiver. It’s also been widely reported that the veteran quarterback commands practices with much more urgency and intensity these days, getting on his young receivers and helping to correct their mistakes.

While Roethlisberger didn’t come into this league as the natural wunderkind that Manning, the son of an NFL quarterback did, it’s worth keeping in mind that Manning also had a six-year head start. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Manning was a first overall pick, meaning that he was drafted by a terrible team, who tossed him the keys and told him to drive.

Roethlisberger’s ascendance to a leadership role has been gradual, having come into an environment filled by veterans and a strong tradition. As the years ago by, there’s no question that Roethlisberger is becoming more and more of the general, and taking greater authority over the offense.

About the Author

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

    This will probably get blown way out of proportion. This is from Sander’s social media today. “I’ve said Big Ben is a first ballot hall-of-famer. You don’t get close to the hall-of-fame without great leadership skills. Don’t let anyone gas you up and make you think I was taking a shot at anyone.”

  • Jacque Strappe

    He’s a jackass. They put a mic in front of him because he’s a jackass. When he drops 2 3rd down conversions and Manning lights him up like a Christmas tree, we’ll see how enamoured he is with PM then. Good riddance. I like what we have here better anyway. Wish in hindsight we had the extra 3rd rounder when we had the chance to cut ties last year.

  • Steelers@2010

    Man, how many more articles will be written about Sanders love for Peyton Manning? Ok, we get it, we all know that he prefers Peyton over Big Ben, no big deal at all to me. Besides, he does play for the Broncos now. I think the Steelers young Corps of WR’s will be better than the previous Young Money Crew.

  • JNick

    I’m sure Ben struggled getting extra practice sessions in with Emmanuel when he spent half of his tenure with the Steelers in the training room. Ben helped developed so many good, young wideouts – and put in the time. Sander’s comments are just laughable. Just take your paycheck and go be Mr. Anti-Clutch in Denver. I’m sure Peyton has alot to work on with you.

  • Steve

    With you on that last sentence. What a waste of time and Money with Sanders. We should have let him go last year.

  • dgh57

    He prefers Manning over Big Ben like I like my WRs to keep their focus in games! Check out his tape in the Bears/Vikings game to see what I mean!

    I say good riddance!!!

  • Kurt Williams

    …Meanwhile, Ben is 2 for 3 in SUPERBOWLS!

  • James Miles

    I am sure Ben prefers working with committed hard working wide receivers. Good riddance you WR want to be. The Steelers will be better off without you!!!!!!!!

  • Paddy

    Really what does Sanders’ opinion matter? After all he was just a guy who caught a few passes and never excelled. Why are people listening to him?

  • sophiya wright

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  • Matthew Marczi

    That’s why I tried to add some context outside of the Pro Football Talk snippet. Sanders has shown a tremendous amount of respect for Roethlisberger and the Steelers as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t think what he said is unreasonable.

  • Intropy

    Wait, a minute here. So a player praised his previous teammates while also expressing preference and excitement for his new team? That sounds like every player ever asked that question. Heck, that sounds like me every time I’ve changed jobs.

  • Nolrog

    I still say they should have taken that damn 3rd round pick from New England.

  • cencalsteeler

    I might get some backlash from this, but I think Sanders has validity in his comments. Manning is a very cerebral qb which is his strength. Attention to detail and having everyone on the same page is what makes him who he is. Ben, on the other hand, is an athletically gifted qb. Watching his maturation process along the way has started to bring some nice leadership skills. If he can couple his natural ability and pay more attention to detail (like Peyton), he can take his career to the next level. Ben has that advantage over Peyton, his skillset. Peyton’s strength can be learned. It just requires a lot of study hours from Ben if he chooses to do so.

  • sean mcmartin

    Yes he will drop a few crucial conversions and the Broncos will know what they have. let his play speak for himself. the end.

  • 2443scott

    the guy has alot to say …to bad his talent didnt say to much in steeler football ….wr`s like him are a dine a dozen he was only taken by denver because they lost theres to the jets … bad NE didnt get him at least i wouldnt have to hear him there …next year he can go join wallass in miami and carry his wallet

  • Zurich1012

    This from a player that dropped so many balls? Not only that but but catches that could have changed the outcome of games? He’s an idea just play in Denver and shut up. Sanders is a marginal player that really needs to work on his game just to be a number 3. Leadership? Leadership also comes from being a consistent dedicated player!

  • Addison

    Are balls easier to hold onto in the wide open in Denver.

  • Zurich1012

    The Steelers were faced with having to chose between Hines Ward and Buress from a contract standpoint. Years later they had to choose between Brown, Wallace and Sanders…again they chose right! Sanders could be a really good player but it will take some dedicated work. Antonio Brown is the example that is being set as to what it takes to be the best. Manning in his prime is probably a better regular season game day player but not better than Ben on any planet in the playoffs and when the games really matter.

  • Louis Goetz

    It is still boggles my mind that the Steelers kept Sanders and forewent the Patriots’ 3rd round draft pick. If the Steelers didn’t match New England’s offer they could’ve traded that pick down and stock piled another pick or two and still drafted Shamarko Thomas in the 4th without having to give Cleveland our 3rd rounder in this year’s draft (which then went to Philadelphia and ultimately Houston). Keeping Sanders for just the 2013 season not only cost the Steelers two players in 2014, but made Cleveland better on top of it all. And what’s worse is that ND NT Louis Nix III (a projected 1st rounder by many and teammate of rookie DE Stephon Tuitt) was actually taken with the very pick that the Steelers dealt to Cleveland because they didn’t take NE’s 3rd rounder in ’13. Not to rub salt in it or anything, but CB Phillip Gaines (sub 4.4 40) was still on the board at the time, as was Donte Moncrief (6’2″ 221 lbs. 4.4 40).

  • Louis Goetz

    What’s the kid supposed to say – that he thinks Ben’s a better QB than Manning, or that he prefers Roethlisberger to Manning? Even if he did think those things he could certainly never say them. And it’s not like he’s screaming that he prefers Brian Hoyer or EJ Manuel over Ben. He’s saying that he prefers Peyton Manning, who’s arguably the best QB in the history of the NFL. How many people are going to honestly put together a list of the top QBs currently in the league and put Ben over Manning? I think this article is more about what PFT did than what Sanders did.

  • Scott

    Peyton might be the best leader in the history of the NFL…sooo this should be no surprise haha. Getting worked up over it is dumb.

  • Jason White

    Sanders can have that choking bum. I’d rather stick with Ben.

  • Xclewsive

    Plaxico Burress
    Santonio Holmes
    Mike Wallace
    Emmanuel sanders

    All of these WR have made similar comments about Ben in the past so these comments aren’t a real surprise. But let’s not get it confused because the first two mentioned expressed that they wanted to come back after they left. Wallace and Sanders will do the same.

  • Dan

    I consider Sanders a decent player and I’m sure his numbers in Denver will be fine, but I’m not sure how he became the 2nd coming of Jerry Rice all the sudden. I heard him referred to as an upgrade over Decker? I really don’t understand how he got the media’s attention. Ponderous.

  • Lil Smitty

    Peyton is probably the best QB/leader in the regular season. In the post season he is rather pedestrian. The reason they play the game is to win the super bowl, it takes a different type of leader to do that.

  • J.

    Agree 100% it is no big deal. What is Sanders supposed to say now that he likes Ben better just to appease silly Steelers fans. I get why Steelers fans want to hate him because he left the Steelers and several fans feelings are hurt over that. They will all cry no we hate him because he was lousy and dropped balls blah blah blah. Sanders is a better player than Steelers fans want to give him credit for and I think we will miss him more than most fans think.

  • J.

    Just FYI he is credited with only 3 drops last season and a drop percentage of 2.7% In fact he has 11 drops for his entire career with the Steelers.

  • mokhkw

    You deserve props for researched & balanced reporting. Well Done.

    …….you do realize you’ve likely blown any chance of ever working for PFT, ESPN etc . 😉

    I won’t knock either QB but I’ve always wondered if Peytons poor PO record has anything to do with him tiring his guys out during PS and the regular season.

    Peytons teams are always Sept-Oct-Nov champs but seem to run out of momentum come PO time.

    Maybe Ben’s approach works better over a long season? Record would seem to indicate it does if the team makes the PO while Peytons way gets you to the PO regularly with less ultimate success.

  • John Fraraccio

    Let’s be fair to Emmanuel: It’s not good game to talk down your present employer. And let’s be fair to the Steelers: He wanted to leave and they didn’t stand in his way. Movin’ on…

  • Sean Mahoney

    Let’s see Peyton get his nose broke and not miss a play like Ben did.

  • JohnB

    That’s ok, Im sure Ben prefers Antonio Browns receiving abilities.

  • Axe Skot

    Some are a lot kinder than me. If I remember correctly, of the Young Money Crew, he was the highest drafted and remains the least accomplished. This isn’t the first time he has made disparaging comments about 7. He says this and then says 7 is a first ballot Hall of Famer? Nice try. You can’t have it both ways. You were gutless on the field and now off. I predict you and Manning will make a great pair…until the playoffs, of course.

  • Steelers@2010

    lol. He is loving the one he is now with. Nothing wrong about praising the QB you’re currently with, but there was no reason or excuse for taking a cheap shot at his former QB in the process. Totally uncalled for Emmanuel, I hought you were better than that.