Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders hoping for return

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 25, 2013 at 2:11 pm •  Published: December 25, 2013
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — It's not the way Emmanuel Sanders wanted to spend a portion of his Christmas Day, perched on a training table inside the Pittsburgh Steelers practice facility getting treatment for a sprained knee.

The fourth-year wide receiver is hardly complaining. There's still a chance his balky knee could respond well enough for him to play Sunday in the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns. There's still a shot the Steelers (7-8) could somehow make the playoffs. There's still an opportunity for Sanders to put off the pressing questions about his future for a few weeks longer.

Just in case, though, Sanders concedes he'll take a minute Sunday afternoon, scan the stands at Heinz Field and try to breathe in the moment. He'll certainly play football in 2014. Whether it's in Pittsburgh, the free agent-to-be has no idea.

"I love this organization and I pray to God we can work out something where I'm comfortable and they're comfortable," Sanders said. "But at the end of the day who knows what might transpire in the offseason? I'm not going to say I'm going to be here. I'm not going to say I'm not. But I hope the dots connect."

Sanders signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Steelers last spring after the New England Patriots tried the unusual move of making a qualifying offer to the restricted free agent. Pittsburgh and Sanders, however, could not reach a long-term deal, and it's uncertain the Steelers will be able to afford Sanders when he hits the open market in March.

Sanders has already set career highs in receptions (65), yards (714) and touchdowns (six). He had a 47-yard kick return to set up a field goal in last week's 38-31 win over Green Bay before leaving late in the first half because of a non-contact injury to the knee.

Even if he doesn't play another snap this year, the 26-year-old believes he's made a compelling argument to all 32 teams — the Steelers included — that he can be a starting outside receiver for the better part of the next decade.

"When you get a guy like me, I feel like I'm a home run hitter," Sanders said. "I think at the wide receiver position I can run routes; I can block. I can do everything. I've got return capability. I'm just a football player."

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