Sanders Injury Opens Door For Challengers

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 14: Emmanuel Sanders #88 of the Pittsburgh Steelers catches a touchdown pass against the New England Patriots during the game on November 14 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Training camp determines depth. Depth determines championships.

So, in a way, the Steelers are fortunate for the news of WR Emmanuel Sanders' foot not healing up to expectations, 12 weeks following surgery. It gives younger receivers more reps with the No. 1 and No. 2 teams.

This is especially important for one receiver. You may remember him.

If Limas Sweed was simply hoping for one last chance to earn the respect that typically comes with being a second round pick, it appears as if he has it. Battling for a roster spot against a slew of players either drafted much later than him, or not drafted at all, Sweed will likely get second-team looks at split end, behind Mike Wallace.

Antwaan Randle El gave way to Antonio Brown at the flanker position behind Hines Ward, and it would appear, under at least the day Sanders returns - and is fully healthy - Brown would have the inside track on the third receiver position. Both Sanders and Brown played in the slot at times last season.

The Steelers have reason to be excited about their young wide receivers, but that's exactly what they are; young. Brown came up big in spots last season, but did not establish himself until later in the year. Ditto for Sanders, who now has a lingering foot injury.

I needn't remind anyone of the slew of problems Sweed has had.

But he has an opportunity now. As does Brown. And possibly even veteran special teams ace (ahem) Arnaz Battle. Even the 90 or so undrafted free agent receivers the Steelers brought in have a chance to turn some heads in camp.

The fact is, even with Sanders, the battles for the receiver positions behind Ward and Wallace will be hotly contested. Sanders' injury negated the slight perceived advantage he may have had for the No. 3 spot, and now, it's anyone's spot to grab.

One last chance for Limas. Maybe a first chance for Battle. Either way, the competition will make the team deeper and stronger.

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