Very interesting. The Pittsburgh Steelers have completed Day 2 of the 2010 NFL Draft, adding two more prospects to the fold. First in Round 2 it was Jason Wirlds, a junior outside linebacker from Virginia Tech. Then in the third round, the Steelers added a WR, Emmanuel Sanders
So who is this Emmanuel Sanders kid? You certainly didn't get to see much of him on television this past year as a result of him and the Mustangs playing in Conference USA. But you may have heard about him if you're the type to track Scouting Combine results closely. Sanders tore it up in Indianapolis last month. His 40-yard dash time of 4.41 doesn't jump out at you, but it was actually tied for the second best time of any wide receiver. He also finished first in the broad jump, and in the top three of the vertical, the 3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle. Not bad! Bottom line is the kid is an athlete. He's got top shelf speed, good hips, he's agile and he's tough for a guy that is only 5'11" and 186 pounds.
Sanders got an opportunity to show off his set of hands and willingness to catch the ball over the middle of the field in June Jones' pass-happy offense the past two seasons. Sanders caught 67 passes for 958 yards and 9 TDs in 2008, his junior season. Last year as a senior, those numbers increased to 98 receptions for 1,339 yards. His 7 TDs last season gave him an impressive total of 34 during his 4-year career.
I'm going to wait until tomorrow's action unfolds to give my overall thoughts on the state of the roster, but a few thoughts on this pick for now. First of all, I think it's safe to say that the Steelers were not only impressed by his athletic ability, which was on full display at the Combine, but also are confident that Sanders has the same type of competitive edge and lack of fear as their 3rd round pick in 2009, Mike Wallace. I think the Steelers probably have learned quite a lot about assessing personalities at the WR position in recent years - from Santonio, to Limas, and Wallace. I'm hoping they've correctly pegged Sanders as one of those big-moment type performers that will be able to contribute right away if need be. And no matter what, Sanders will surely keep Limas on his toes the rest of this offseason and into training camp at Latrobe.
Secondly, Sanders has the ability to help stretch the field with Mike Wallace. This could be helpful for the work Hines Ward and Heath Miller will be doing over the middle of the field and out in the flats. Bruce Arians likes to design passing plays where receivers go to different 'levels' and Sanders seems to be a guy who can work in all areas of the field - in the bubble screen type game, on the perimeter going deep and cutting off his routes along the sidelines, and over the middle of the field in front of safetys.
Here's one downside of the pick though - Sanders, despite being nearly a 40" vertical leaper, doesn't add much to the Steelers red zone passing attack. That was an area of concern all last season and in 2008. At times the offense looked brilliant no matter where they were on the field, including inside opponents 20 yard line. But too often they bogged down and had to settle for a FG attempt. We know how some of those missed opportunities came back to cost the Steelers by games' end.
I'll stop there for now. More on Day 2 of the 2010 NFL Draft soon, including more thoughts on our two acquisitions today.
You're in Steelers Country, Emmanuel Sanders! Welcome!