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Old 02-04-2011, 06:29 PM   #1
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Default Watch Out for Emmanuel Sanders on Third-and-Long

Watch Out for Emmanuel Sanders on Third-and-Long
By JJ Cooper

Emmanuel Sanders has been a great addition to the Steelers. The rookie has quickly taken over the No. 3 receiver job, and he's shown plenty of signs that he's the heir apparent to Hines Ward -- he even blocks a little like No. 86.

But Sanders' greatest feat is being exceptional on third-and-long. You would think that a rookie wide receiver is not going to get the attention of a veteran quarterback very often in the most difficult of passing situations, but in Sanders' case, he's turned it into an art form.

Five times Ben Roethlisberger has looked for Sanders on third-and-11 or more. Considering the near impossibility of converting third-and-uber-long, if Sanders and Roethlisberger had managed to hook up for one or two first downs, it would be an exceptional performance.

Sanders is 5-for-5. He's converted three third-and-11s, a third-and-13 and a third-and-24. When you consider that the rest of the Steelers' receivers corp has four conversions in 34 third-and 11-plus situations, Sanders' perfection is almost hard to explain.

Ward has been the second most successful on third-and-forever, but the speedy Mike Wallace actually has the most balls thrown his way in those situations.

Brown may only be 1-for-2, but that one catch gets some extra credit considering it was his 58-yard catch to beat the Ravens last week.

Pittsburgh does have one additional third and way-long conversion -- Roethlisberger's hobbled scamper for 18 yards on a third-and-17 against the Bills. He has also been sacked nine times on third-and-11-plus situations, but those are very understandable sacks -- you don't go 10-for-40 on third-and-11-plus without taking some chances. In Roethlisberger's case, his attempts to extend the play make it an all-or-nothing gamble. He'll sometimes get sacked because he tries to buy time for a wide receiver to get open, but on a third and long, it just means the punt is from a little farther back.

Roethlisberger has consistently been the league's best at making the impossible possible. Football Outsiders' stats have him as the league's best on third-and-8 or longer this year (he also was the league's best in 2007). In the four games before Roethlisberger came back, Pittsburgh was 0-for-8.

The Steelers have been remarkably good at converting third and 11+ this year. Here's a look at Ben Roethlisberger's targets on those plays.
Player Attempts Successful
Emmanuel Sanders 5 5
Hines Ward 2 7
Mike Wallace 1 8
Heath Miller 0 4
Mewelde Moore 0 3
Antwaan Randle El 0 4
Isaac Redman 0 1
Antonio Brown 1 2
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