PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Emmanuel Sanders has faced a hailstorm of negativity on local talk shows, as well as in social media for mishandling Ben Roethlisberger's attempted two-point conversion that would have tied the game against the Baltimore Ravens Thanksgiving night.
To those Sanders detractors, this was just another drop from a receiver that the Steelers counted on to be their No. 2 wideout behind Antonio Brown. Sanders is second on the club, behind Brown, with 54 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns. But there have been several drops this season when he appeared to mishandle catchable passes for big plays.
"It's nothing that I'm worried about, nothing at all, because at the end of the day people are going to say what they want to say,'' Sanders said Wednesday. So, I don't really care. I'm just here to play football and win.''
If Sanders really didn't care, one wouldn't think he would take the time to get involved in a spitting contest with his naysayers. Why bother?
"As far as fans saying a lot of negative stuff and sometimes crossing the line, that's disrespectful,'' Sanders said. "It's not that I care. It's just that, I wasn't talking back to any fans, but I was just re-tweeting what they said to make them look stupid.
"No one's perfect, so why expect perfection from someone if you're not perfect yourself. That's how I feel. I wasn't saying anything back to them, but I was just re-tweeting what they said to make them see just how crazy they look. But at the end of the day, they try to bash a guy who's out there giving his all.''
Even though Sanders has had his most productive season since the Steelers selected him in the third round during the 2010 NFL Draft and signed him as a restricted free agent prior to this season, instead of letting him sign with New England and getting another third-round pick, some believe he will never be more than a No. 3 receiver.
Injuries and inconsistency marred his opening three NFL seasons, but he could get a big payday before next season after the numbers he put up this year. And with the way the Steelers offense has performed to this point, there's sentiment in some corners to bring the group back intact. And it's been especially effective despite Mike Wallace's absence.
"We were real close, extremely close, to being the type of offense we strive to be,'' Sanders said. "Ben did a great job putting a lot of balls out there, I thought, for me to make plays. Just talking about me, personally, and I didn't make them. Plays that I usually make, that I've got to make and I will start making. ... Mike was a deep-ball guy, of course, but at the end of the day when a guy like Mike leaves other guys have to step up.
"That's guys like myself, so, of course, this is the National Football League. Any one is replaceable, and they're going to find other guys to step up. I've been talking to Mike back and forth, you know, trash talking already this week. (And) I'll be at dinner with him and Antonio. We're family. We were together three years, so he's like my brother. He's expecting boos here, but I told him maybe not. But he's excited to come back to Pittsburgh.''
To Sanders' credit, he hasn't appeared to look too far ahead, preferring to concentrate on this season and not talk about his contract situation.
"I'm never really satisfied,'' Sanders added. "I don't care if I had 1,000 yards right now. I'm always going to be thinking about the plays that I should have made, could have made and would have made.
"So, I'm just giving it my all to make plays, and I'm going to continue to do that. And, hopefully, we can make the playoffs so we all can keep doing it.''
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