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Print

Sanders wins AFC special teams honor

Posted Oct 27, 2010

Rookie Emmanuel Sanders got off to a rocky start in the Steelers 23-22 win over the Miami Dolphins, but he finished strong and it paid off as he was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Sanders fumbled the opening kickoff in the game and the Dolphins recovered at the 22-yard line, turning it in to a field goal for an early 3-0 lead.

Instead of getting down on himself, Sanders rebounded and finished with five returns for 144 yards, a 28.8-yard average.

“It feels good. I feel blessed, especially after the fumble,” said Sanders of the honor. “I knew I had to bounce back in the game. I am excited. That is my job. The opportunities are there and I knew I had to capitalize on them, especially after the fumble. I am just blessed God gave me the opportunity to recover from the fumble.”

The key for Sanders was making sure he didn’t let the fumble eat away at him, instead putting the play in his rear view mirror and moving forward.

“I learned a philosophy in college, one snap and clear,” said Sanders. “That’s what I had to do. If I would have kept that garbage with me the whole game, I wouldn’t have had a good game. It would have lingered on me the whole time. I would have ended up messing up more. I knew I had to say forget it and move on.”

That was exactly the advice his teammates shared with him on the sidelines, especially quarterback Byron Leftwich.

“Those guys are so young and there is so much on their plate,” said Leftwich of what he said to Sanders. “They want to play well. You want to make them understand they are good football players and this happens to everybody. Stay even-keeled because you will get more opportunities to make those plays throughout the game. It’s a long football game.

“I remember when I was young and I made a mistake. It was hard to forget. You are in the National Football League and you want to do so well. I just wanted him to understand you can have mistakes early on in the game and you can be the hero. I am happy he was able to calm himself down and make the plays that he made for us.”  

* * *

Defensive end Ziggy Hood knows that he has big shoes to fill now that Aaron Smith is sidelined, but don’t look for him to be the same player that Smith is, just look for him to be himself.

“Aaron has done it for years,” said Hood. “While he is down I have to fill in. I won’t be able to do the same job, because that is Aaron Smith and he is a great player.  If I can do at least half of what he does, I feel like I have done my job.”

Last week against Miami it came down to Hood and Nick Eason getting the start for Brett Keisel, who was out with a hamstring injury. Eason got the nod to start, as he is more experienced on the right side. But Hood is likely to be the guy on the left side in Smith’s place.

“When Aaron goes down I am up at left, if Brett goes down, Nick is up,” said Hood. “That is the way it is. If Aaron goes down, I start, that is how the rotation goes.”

Hood isn’t letting the emotions of starting get to him, instead taking a low key approach and just focusing on the task at hand.

“I just go in there and take it, take all the coaching from Coach (John) Mitchell and techniques from Aaron and go in stride with it.

“I played a whole lot more the last year, got more snaps, and feel more comfortable. As the game goes on I feel stronger. I think I am ready. I had a great teacher in front of me. If I need somebody to fall back and talk to he will be there.”

* * *

Quotable: Ben Roethlisberger on Drew Brees throwing four interceptions against the Browns and how motivated he will be this week because of that -- “Drew is a professional and he’s one of the best in the game. I don’t think he’s thinking about that today as he’s preparing. That’s just not the way he is. He’s a competitor. He will come out and give it his best shot every time.”

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