I remember an extended IM conversation I had with Emperor Bean last year around this time.
It wasn’t quite as heated as our frequently debated topic of Vince Young/Jeff Fisher, but the resolve he showed in his side was kind of surprising. I mean, sure, Steelers WR Antonio Brown had a big grab against Baltimore, but there’s no way his upside is higher than Emmanuel Sanders’, right?
We’d likely have a different conversation today. I won’t concede defeat over trivial things like "evidence" and "results," but I will hang on tightly to the fact talent has never been Sanders’ issue. If he remains healthy, he’s just as poised to have a big year as Brown was last year.
The battle of the long-term contracts is waging between Mike Wallace and Brown. Who will get what next year, and so on. While the Packers are sitting back, smoking cigars and toasting their fortune to have gotten Jordy Nelson (vastly underrated and we saw that last year) to sign for chump change while keeping Greg Jennings locked up, the Steelers won’t have that luxury if Sanders can kick his injury habit and become the next strong possession receiver the Steelers have been looking for since 19-ought-8 when they drafted Hines Ward. In a shorter passing attack, which it appears the Steelers will look to implement this year, Sanders’ value becomes higher than the Run-n-Gun Arians’ offense SteelerNation enjoyed so much. Ten yard catch, move them chains…eight yards on 1st-and-10, set up a run to keep the safeties home, move them chains. Look for Sanders again, 12 yards, move them chains.
The guy can catch the ball. He can get open. Sure, he doesn’t have Brown’s big-play ability (I plead the Fifth on whether that was the center of Emporer Bean’s argument), but it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he’s one of two Steelers receivers not named Wallace or Miller who has 75+ catches this season.
This year still is a "two dogs, one bone" year for Sanders and Brown, look for Manny to bite back a bit more this season.