Sanders: "This place is special to me"

Voluntary offseason workouts began on Monday for NFL teams, but on Sunday morning wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders still wasn't sure where he would be reporting for the first day of the program.

Sanders, a restricted free agent, had signed a one-year contract offer with the New England Patriots last week. The Steelers had five days to match the offer, or lose Sanders to the Patriots in exchange for their third-round draft pick. On Sunday the Steelers choose to match the offer and keep Sanders in black and gold.

"It's been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of confusion, but the end result was good, getting the opportunity to play for the team I wanted to play for, so I am happy," said Sanders. "It feels really good to be wanted. All of the hard work I put in has paid off.

"Pittsburgh gave me the opportunity when I was just a kid coming out of college so this place is special to me."

Sanders joined his Steelers' teammates for the first phase of offseason workouts on Monday, taking part in the conditioning program and getting lots of hugs and high-fives from the guys.

"Being here today was extremely important," said Sanders. "After the deal came about I wanted to be here working. I wanted to do the right thing. In order for us to win we have to have camaraderie, and for that to happen guys need to be here. This is the first time we can meet and start getting chemistry. For me, the season has officially started."

After starting only eight games in his first three seasons, Sanders has an opportunity this season to step into a full-time starter role after Mike Wallace departed for the Miami Dolphins via free agency. It's a role he would relish.

"I just want to come in and make plays," said Sanders. "I want to stay healthy. This year I want to be a full-time starter. I am looking forward to taking advantage of it. It's an opportunity I have been waiting for and now that it is here I am working hard so when the ball comes my way I will be able to do what I know I am capable of doing.

"The moment is here, carpe diem. It's something I relate to a lot. It's about seizing the moment, seizing the day. It's something in my heart I want to do, not just for myself, but for Steelers Nation. After all, I am wearing (Lynn Swann's) No. 88. I remember my rookie year having that conversation about representing No. 88 and I am looking forward to representing it well."

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