One of Emmanuel Sanders' goals for 2011 can be boiled down to three letters oh-so-important to those who play his position:
"YAC," the second-year Steelers wide receiver said, without hesitation.
YAC stands for "yards after catch" — the work a receiver does after securing the ball. Sanders believes he missed some opportunities to create bigger plays as a rookie, ones he wouldn't have missed as a collegiate star at SMU, when everything was second nature and he played freely. As a rookie, he played just a touch more deliberately, he told PFW.
"That's not the same kid that would have run that curl route at SMU," Sanders said.
As it was, Sanders was a key contributor to the Steelers' run to Super Bowl XLV. He secured the No. 3 WR role in the second half of the season and became one of the Steelers' key pass-catching options, catching 24 passes for 300 yards and two TDs (45 targets) in the final eight regular-season games and adding 7-91-0 (13 targets) in three postseason contests.
However, his season ended in disappointing fashion. His problems began in the AFC title game, when he injured his right foot. Warming up before the Super Bowl, he sensed that "something was wrong" with the foot, he said, and took a shot in the foot to alleviate his discomfort. In the game, Sanders was targeted three times, catching two passes, but on his final catch, he planted and hurt his foot further. The injury was found to be a break, which was surgically repaired.
Before that round of surgery, X-rays were taken on both feet, and a small fracture was found in his left foot, and a screw was inserted in a surgical procedure in early April.
According to Sanders, his right foot is healed, with his left foot on pace to be healed by late June. In the meantime, he is doing what he can to stay in shape. "I'm walking fine," he said.
When the Steelers recently held workouts, Sanders, foot still in a boot, caught passes from QB Ben Roethlisberger. "I just want to show Ben I'm dedicated no matter what," he said.
The boot is gone. The eagerness to begin his second season remains. Should the lockout end soon, Sanders said, "I'll be ready to go."