Snapshot: Emmanuel Sanders

The Snapshot series of Steelers rookies continues today with a feature on third-round draft pick Emmanuel Sanders.

Emmanuel Sanders caught 67 and 98 passes during his final two seasons at SMU. Coincidentally or not, it mirrored the time the speedy, diminutive wide receiver played under Coach June Jones and his run-and-shoot offense.

So you can imagine the most popular question asked to Sanders the past couple months by nearly every scout and team in the NFL:

Were Sanders' gaudy numbers in college a product of the gimmick offense?

The Steelers' third round pick is getting a little tired of answering the question, but it's valid.

"The numbers were inflated because I did play in a pass-happy offense," Sanders said. "This year, I got most of those yards by myself. The numbers do mean something."

Sanders spent the majority of the time leading up to the draft defending his numbers as more than just a product of a gimmick offense.

The 5-11, 180 Sanders must've have sold himself pretty well as the Steelers used their third round pick to select the receiver during last month's draft.

"It's funny when they say that June Jones' offense doesn't translate to the NFL," he said. "He coached in the league. He runs a pro style team. At SMU, he treats it professional at all times. His offense, you have to read coverages and do stuff that they are teaching us now. I definitely feel like I am a step ahead when it comes to the play."

Although Sanders sounded defensive about his numbers being a product of the run-and-shoot, he ensures that he isn't.

"It's just the truth," he said. "It is a rumor that most run-and-shoot quarterbacks and receivers can't make it in the NFL. Davone Bess proved that wrong. We are going to continue to prove that wrong."

New Steelers receivers coach Scottie Montgomery feels that Sanders' numbers reflect more about the player than the system and that's why the team drafted him.

"It's an impressive offense," Montgomery said. "We feel confident in the job and evaluation that the entire department did and the coaching staff did and we're very comfortable with him and happy about it."

Now Sanders has something else to prove: Can he can make the transition from the slot to the outside?

The Steelers are hoping the switch doesn't present a problem for Sanders, especially with the departure of Santonio Holmes and the recent injury to receiver Limas Sweed.

Although he's not there yet, Sanders is banking on making the transition by the time the team heads to Latrobe in early August.

"I am going outside right now," he said. "I am not comfortable with the playbook right now, but I am going to get comfortable with the playbook and with playing the outside."

The Steelers often use three wide receivers in Bruce Arians' offense. The majority of the time last year, Hines Ward was in the slot with Holmes and Mike Wallace on the outside.

With the trade of Holmes and the injury to Sweed, to go along with both free agent receivers the team signed during the offseason (Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle) predominantly playing the slot, the Steelers are counting on Sanders to make a seamless transition.

Sanders got his first taste at the outside during the week leading up to the East-West Shrine game. It wasn't pretty.

"All the rest of the receivers there had been outside receivers but me coming in it took me a little while to adjust," he said. "Coming out of the Shrine Game I showed people that I had some sort of athleticism that if you give me a little time I can develop into a good outside receiver."

The East-West Shrine game is where the Steelers really noticed Sanders.

"We had evaluated him during the fall, but at the East-West he really stood out among the wide receivers," director of football operations Kevin Colbert said.

The Steelers are confident that Sanders can produce in his rookie season; maybe not to the level that last year's rookie of the year, Mike Wallace, did when he caught 39 passes for 756 yards, but enough to make a contribution.

"The main thing I see from him is that he wants to get better," Wallace said. "If he does something wrong then he wants to know why."

Sanders showed he could do just about everything at SMU. He left as the school's all-time leader in receptions (235), receiving yards (3,791) and touchdown receptions (34).

Last year he put up ridiculous numbers catching 98 passes for 1,339 yards, but that was college.

"I went to SMU where I was the guy," Sanders said. "I knew the offense, but coming into this situation nobody really cares. They put in a lot of the offense the first day and I expect to know the offense. I expect greatness from myself."

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