"That's who coach Jones set as my example," said Sanders. "He told me if you want to learn how to run my offense, go and watch Davone Bess."
Bess played for coach June Jones at Hawaii before leaving for the NFL in 2008. He'd caught 293 balls for 3,610 yards and 41 touchdowns for Jones, but went undrafted because, among other reasons, he ran a 4.76 40 at the combine.
But Bess signed with the Dolphins and immediately made an impact, catching 54 passes as a rookie and 76 passes last year. This year, Bess is a starter and has caught 26 passes for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Sanders, who played the same "H", or slot, receiver position for Jones at SMU that Bess played at Hawaii, hopes to add to his NFL total of 2 catches that began to accrue last Sunday when he converted a pair of third downs with 22 and 15-yard catches.
"Yeah, Davone was a good player, man. I saw him countless times," Sanders said. "I went and studied him and that's where I learned how to sit (in soft spots of zone defenses) and do all kinds of things."
Sanders is an inch taller and eight pounds lighter than Bess, but ran a 4.44 40 at the combine and was drafted in the third round last April.
Might he become a faster version of Davone Bess some day?
"I'm Emmanuel Sanders, man, but we both played in the same system," he said. "He helped my draft status because what he did with the Dolphins as a rookie, that showed that run-and-shoot wide receivers could produce in the NFL. We had that stigma that we couldn't, so he came up and started producing and it helped me out. Now I'm trying to help the next guy, and that's Aldrick Robinson. He's at SMU right now and doing well."
Sanders will again be active for the Steelers today, and he hopes to again become a target of Ben Roethlisberger's at critical points in the game. Sanders was asked if he was surprised that Roethlisberger threw to him last Sunday when he had several other veteran receivers at his disposal.
"If I'm open, he'll throw it," Sanders said. "Ben likes to win."
EASING THE LOAD
Rashard Mendenhall is on pace for 371 carries, which would rank him third all-time in team history behind Barry Foster (390 in 1992) and Jerome Bettis (375 in 1997). But it's not something the team wishes to foist upon its young emerging star back, so they're hoping to get others involved today at Miami.
"They said this week me and Mewelde Moore are each going to get a series," said Isaac Redman. "Mendenhall has been taking a lot of abuse and has been in there for a lot of snaps, and at the rate he's not going to be able to finish the season. So they're going to try to take the load off him and get me and Mewelde in more, so I'm looking forward to that."
Redman has carried 21 times for 89 yards and has also showed improvement as a lead fullback.
"This week is actually the first week they've had me leading up on linebackers," Redman said. "For the most part I've been on safeties and cornerbacks."
PENN STATE TRIVIA
Any Penn State fans out there remember outside linebacker Derek Wake?
He was an outside linebacker who, in spite of a spiffy 4.55 40 time at his Pro Day, went undrafted in the 2005 draft. He signed with the New York Giants but was cut before training camp. A series of events led to Wake going by his middle name of Cameron, and he looked upon it as a new beginning in 2007.
Right he was.
Cameron Wake signed with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League and recorded 39 sacks combined in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He was named the league's defensive player of the year both times and eventually signed with the Miami Dolphins, where he has 8½ sacks this season – or as many as he accumulated throughout his career at Penn State.
"They had him at outside linebacker. He wasn't rushing the passer, but he was in the box the whole time. He did more reading than anything. His talents are much better used now."
Is Wake a different player now?
"Completely," Essex said. "I remember him being quick. He could run. But he's so much more fluid now. He had a sack on film where he got cut and the running back took his leg out, but he spun around on one leg to make the tackle. He's a completely different player."
Dick LeBeau on his defense allowing 67 percent of opposing passes to be completed to rank 27th in the league in that category:
"We lead the league in points allowed. That's my biggest concern. That's pretty good. If we can be that at the end of the season I'll be happy. I'm interested in stats, but you have to take the whole. You can't just pick out one thing here, one thing there. With all the categories they've got, everybody's got to be pretty low in some of them. The one that matters right now is 4-1. That's what really matters."