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Old 11-25-2010, 09:04 AM   #1
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Default Rookie WRs are wearing hats well

Rookie WRs are wearing hats well
Thursday, November 25, 2010
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10329/1106026-150.stm

Near as I can tell, depending on the week and the working phraseology of their head coach, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown compete intensely with each other for either a hat or a bone.

Mike Tomlin usually says his precocious rookie receivers ultimately determine who gets a hat, the current nomenclature that means a helmet on game day, but after both got a hat for Sunday's splattering of the Oakland Raiders, Tomlin described their on-going tussle over playing time as "two dogs, one bone."

So before whatever it is that these young wideouts are after changes within the Tomlin glossary to some other random unrelated noun, we ought to point out that there's only one dog in this week's fight. Brown has some knee swelling, so it's likely only Sanders will dress at Buffalo. But while there's plenty for which any team in the NFL with a 7-3 record has to be thankful, the Steelers should not underestimate the blessing that Brown and Sanders have been.

Rookie wideouts usually arrive in this league with an acute case of cluelessness, and for some it metastasizes into a career malignancy. Most successful players at the position spend two or three years figuring out a sometimes viciously complicated position, fraught not only with belligerent corners and crazed safeties, but by blitz recognition, hot reads, cold reads, hats, bones, etc. Yet Sanders and Brown have not only flashed brilliantly on special teams, but they're also becoming reliable receivers well ahead of the learning curve.

"The most difficult thing is just learning an NFL playbook and figuring out exactly what the offensive coordinator wants you to do," said Sanders, who has caught touchdown passes in consecutive games from Ben Roethlisberger. "I'm still not 100 percent comfortable. I'm still learning things out there, but I spent a lot of time studying Hines [Ward] and Santonio [Holmes], so even by training camp I was more comfortable with things than they thought I was."

That Holmes study would be a video course, obviously, since it was the unforeseen development of Holmes tweeting himself out of town that pressed the Steelers to draft Sanders in the first place. It's true that Sanders might have come in the third round anyway, as Holmes was in the final year of his contract, but the Steelers would not likely have gone after another wideout in Round 6, which is when Brown was selected.

The first time he touched a football in an NFL game, Sept. 19 in Nashville, Brown took it 89 yards to a touchdown, surprising no one who had ever witnessed a game involving the fighting Chippewas of Central Michigan, where Brown was the Mid-American Conference Special Teams Player of the Year in 2008 and '09.

"I've been doing that for a really long time and I've always prided myself on it," Brown said Wednesday. "My attitude's always been that it takes a special player to play special teams, and it's a special gift to get the opportunity."

That electrifying return against Tennessee is the big part of the reason Brown is averaging 31.3 yards per kickoff return, and Sunday he returned seven punts for 66 yards as well. Yet it was Sanders who took the Steelers' only special teams player of the week award this season for returning a fourth-quarter kickoff 48 yards at Miami to set up a winning field goal.

"I really hadn't done it very much," Sanders said. "You just have to pay your dues there. All rookies play special teams, unless you're a first rounder or something. But I'm a real competitive guy. I want to do whatever it takes to win."

Sanders gradually pulled ahead of Brown in terms of game-readiness in the offensive game plan. On both his touchdown catches, he was Roethlisberger's primary receiver. His 22-yarder against Oakland was a sharp testament to Sanders' concentration, as he caught the pass in a stretching position horizontal the earth, then fell on the lawn a half-yard from the goal line and literally bounced into the Raiders' end zone before anyone in a white shirt could contact him.

"I liked both of them," Sanders grinned about his touchdowns. "Two NFL touchdowns, that's definitely a blessing."

The larger blessing is that while Mike Wallace has been busy and successful at replacing Holmes in Bruce Arians' offense, the question of who would replace Wallace on the outside has finally begun to be answered. Sanders caught five passes against New England, and Brown chipped in with a 21-yard catch against Oakland.

"The difficult thing is that there are so many great players in front of you," said Brown. "You have to be patient and keep a good attitude and that's what I've been doing. When I get the opportunity, I just want to continue to be mistake-free."

At 22 and 23 years old, Brown and Sanders don't have to be perfect, but what they've done to this point is perfectly fine and perfectly promising.
Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com. More articles by this author


Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10329...#ixzz16Kn3u49N
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Old 11-25-2010, 11:56 AM   #2
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Default Re: Rookie WRs are wearing hats well

i wish we would have done this sooner, it was obvious from game 2-3 that randle el wasn't going to be anything special. now if crezdon butler would have some play time.

this draft class is looking extremely solid though. worilds is looking to be the real deal and sylvester is a beast on special teams. pouncey, well, we all seen him play.
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Old 11-25-2010, 01:44 PM   #3
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Default Re: Rookie WRs are wearing hats well

Sanders wears an excellent #, I really hope that he lives up to it. So far, our receiving corp looks promising, lets see how ARE accepts a role as a teacher. Sanders is the real deal!!!!!
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Old 11-25-2010, 02:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: Rookie WRs are wearing hats well

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Originally Posted by Fire Arians View Post
i wish we would have done this sooner, it was obvious from game 2-3 that randle el wasn't going to be anything special. now if crezdon butler would have some play time.

this draft class is looking extremely solid though. worilds is looking to be the real deal and sylvester is a beast on special teams. pouncey, well, we all seen him play.
It was obvious since training camp. Tomlin is a vet lover like most coaches. I think Fox should see the field more too.
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Old 11-25-2010, 03:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: Rookie WRs are wearing hats well

Butler needs to play,NOW! These 2 recievers are 1 of the things that i'm thankful for!!!
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Old 11-26-2010, 05:28 AM   #6
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Default Re: Rookie WRs are wearing hats well

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It was obvious since training camp. Tomlin is a vet lover like most coaches. I think Fox should see the field more too.
agreed, Fox should be on that field alot more. Fox and Timmons plus Woodley and Harrison looks like a very scary tandum
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Old 11-26-2010, 06:10 AM   #7
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Default Re: Rookie WRs are wearing hats well

I would really like to see what Butler can do, Buffalo would be a very good test for him. We seem to hit a jack pot with both Sanders and Brown. Sanders appears to be the real deal and hopefully Brown can continue to improve.
To those of you who want to see more of Fox, Farrior has been a beast, Fox is very good on specials but IMO the play at ILB drops from significantly Farrier to Fox.
I would rather see Sylvester get more time on D. This kid will be a beast for us in years to come!
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Old 11-27-2010, 12:31 AM   #8
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Default Re: Rookie WRs are wearing hats well

IMHO Emmanuel Sanders can be just as good as Mike Wallace. It's unfortunate that Antonio Brown won't be able to play this Sunday. It would be great if Sanders and Brown can both get hats for all games.
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