Former Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders Talks Manning, Roethlisberger

Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was interviewed on Sirius XM NFL Radio yesterday, and he had a lot to say about what it’s like to play with Peyton Manning at quarterback with the Denver Broncos, in comparison to his four seasons in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense with Ben Roethlisberger.

He was highly complimentary toward both his current and former quarterbacks, saying that he believes the biggest difference between the two is the system that they play in.

“To play with Peyton Manning—not only that, playing with Ben Roethlisberger, and then playing with Peyton Manning, two first-ballot Hall of Famers in my eyes, it’s a blessing within itself”, he said.

But Sanders understands the perception. Manning is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, seemingly routinely puts up record-breaking numbers, and makes some of the greatest defenses looks like college teams. Roethlisberger doesn’t put up those numbers, and his game rarely looks beautiful, but he knows how to win.

The former Steelers receiver sees a lot of similarities between the two quarterbacks, particularly when it comes to their drive to succeed, but it seems that he felt a compulsion to defend his former quarterback, to justify his statistical performance in comparison to Manning:

I think they’re both the same kind of guy…they both want to win, they’re both competitors. They both love to throw the football. I think the difference is…the offenses that they’re in. You know, Ben wants to throw the ball. Ben wants to put up big-time numbers and prolific offenses and throw 40 touchdowns. But the offense that he’s in is a balanced attack. He makes the most of it and he wins.

Sanders gave Roethlisberger the edge in terms of arm strength, which is especially true of recent years, since Manning’s career-threatening neck injury, and also spoke positively about the former’s ability to extend plays, but he also talked about the advantages of playing with a quarterback that sees the game as Manning does:

He’s not going to scramble, he’s not going to run when a play breaks down, he’s going to throw the ball away. But the good thing is that now I can run precise routes. He demands that you run precise routes. Like I said, he anticipates passes, so right when I get my head around, the ball is already there.

For a guy like me, that loves to run after the catch and make people miss, the quicker the ball’s there, the quicker it’s in my hands, and the quicker I can make a move and hopefully go and score. So that’s the reason why I’m enjoying playing with Peyton, because the ball is there.

After spending most of his career as a fourth or fifth option, he’s also warming to the more egalitarian Broncos offense that spreads the wealth much more efficiently than the Steelers, or most teams, can:

“The thing that I like about the Broncos is that there’s really no number one guy. Peyton always goes with the favorable matchup…Any guy can go for 180 yards, or 100 yards with 10 catches, any week, week in and week out, just based off of matchups”.

Many Steelers fans were happy to see him leave, and in fact wanted to see him leave a year earlier, which would have netted Pittsburgh a third-round pick. They’re certainly entitled to hold that view, but even if Sanders has felt the wrath of a scorned fan base, it’s good to see that he appreciated the opportunities and the time that he had with the Steelers.

About the Author

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

    He has no reason to diss Pittsburgh. He made millions here for relatively little in return.

  • steeltown

    He’s definitely correct with some of those assessments. Just look at Eric Decker and his two yrs in DEN with Manning at the helm.

  • steelerdre

    He’s been extremely talkative during this off season…maybe he’s needs to put the work in to be more consistent on the field with his ball catching skills. He’s really hasn’t done much in the league so I don’t why he’s constantly in the news or on the radio.

  • PA2AK

    Cut the guy some slack. I could be wrong, but I haven’t heard him spouting off any nonsense or talking himself up. One thing that just about everyone has always said about Sanders (including Wolfley, Tunch, etc. those guys watching on the grass at camp year in and year out) is that Sanders certainly puts in the work. AB edges him out (and just about everyone for that matter), but Sanders has always worked hard. I think they did an article here last week discussing the ‘clutchness’ of Sanders vs. Moore. THAT is the biggest problem with Sanders and I don’t think it comes from a lack of work during the offseason.

  • PA2AK

    Yup…can’t say I would disagree with anything he said as quoted above!

  • Bradys_Dad

    I wish him well unless he’s in a competitive situation with the Steelers Nation!

  • Gautama Om

    Well if he would easily get open then the ball would get right there at the right time. A receiver’s ability to get open and be where he’s suppose to be is extremely important, something that’s not a strength of Sanders. What I take from Sander’s comments is that he says he’s not just good in the open field but also good at getting open/route running because it’s really Ben’s fault for holding on to the ball and not delivering on time….basically Sander’s saying he’s flawless. Oh darn he just got ripped off big time on that 3 year $15mil contract for a flawless WR.

  • joed32

    That is a big difference between Ben and Peyton. Ben likes to look for something better rather than delivering the ball to the first guy he sees open.

  • HiVul

    Every time a player makes a comment in the media someone leaves this response “he should be doing x y and z instead of giving interviews.” As if football players literally practice football from the time they get up to the time they go to sleep, even in the middle of summer.

  • Glad he was professional about it. Good luck to him unless we meet Denver in the playoffs.

  • 2443scott

    i hope he also notices the nfl was changed to give him every advantage as a qb so many rules were change to give him that …i still believe untill he wins super bowls not just one he isnt the best ever montana and bradshaw are best ever …to me it comes down to winning the big game and he has shown he cant do that …he said now he runs routes the way they are suppose to be run why didnt he do that then in pittsburgh …hes talking bigger then he is when he starts droping ball and not in right spot on field and always seems to have a injury as a excuse…i think he will be sitting more then playing and be just another wr looking for a job next year …

  • Matthew Marczi

    I feel bad for him with Geno Smith this year.

  • walter mason

    Great post

  • *(be) hard-pressed

  • Thanks.

  • Randy G.

    Love Sanders take on the two QB’S. If Big Ben was allowed to run an offense like Denver, Saints, and New England his numbers would be way up there. BUT he is a team guy and still had 4500 years or so. Two out of three in the Big Game in ten years with so-so offensive lines his best is yet to come.