Emmanuel Sanders Will Return Kicks and Punts in 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04: Emmanuel Sanders #88 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a fumble recovery with Antonio Brown #84 while playing the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on December 4, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Emmanuel Sanders was on ESPN Radio AM 970 Sunday morning, and confirmed he was told he would return kicks and punts for the Steelers in 2012.

Observer-Reporter's Dale Lolley tweeted the news.

Sanders will replace AFC Pro Bowl WR/KR Antonio Brown, the only player in NFL history with 1,000 return and receiving yards in the same season. It's likely due to the larger role Brown will play in the team's offense, but at the same time, Sanders performed well on returns his rookie season, picking up 628 yards on 25 returns.

Sanders added 60 yards on four punt returns in 2010. Last season, he fought through injuries and returned five kicks for 93 yards, and three punts for 22 yards.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin once said, "two dogs, one bone", of the competition between the young receivers that were both taken in the 2010 draft. They weren't both active for every game, but it seemed that kind of competitive mentality was paying off - especially in the second half of the season and the playoffs.

Sanders, a third-round pick out of SMU, had seven catches for 91 yards in the Steelers' three playoff games en route to a Super Bowl loss to Green Bay. Brown, a sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan, came up with a huge clutch reception that helped propel Pittsburgh past Baltimore and into the AFC Championship game that same year.

Brown stepped his game up in 2011 and will be counted on heavily again next year. But a healthy Sanders should be expected to perform at a high level as well.

Looks like they're still fighting after that one bone.

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