- Upon reading that, one has to wonder if Mike Tomlin has found his Darrell Green.
Green of course was a Hall of Fame cornerback for the Washington Redskins whose career spanned 20 years, 6 Head Coaches, 3 owners and included seven Pro Bowls, 3 trips to the Super Bowl and 2 Lombardi’s. As a cornerback in the heyday of the NFC, Green covered the likes of Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin and defended passes thrown by Hall of Famers such as Phil Simms, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, and Steve Young.
- What in the world could Green have in common with Emmanuel Sanders?
- But when Gibbs deployed Green as a punt returner, he Green returned them with impact.
Writing in the Steelers Digest, Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell shared this observation:
Sanders returned kickoffs in practice prior to the Jets game, and ran harder than I had ever seen him run before. I just assumed he would return kickoffs against the Jets and when it didn’t happen I expected him to return kicks against the Ravens. Finally with the season on the line he returned a kickoff.Wexell quoted Jerricho Cotchery as saying “He’s lighting. We just bring him out when we really need something.”
Emmanuel Sanders returned both kicks and punts during his rookie year, but injuries and promotion into the top tier of receivers have limited those since then. Tomlin wisely does not want to press his luck with using his number two receiver as a kick returner.
But Tomlin has a good track record with using his starters in spot-return duty. People forget that the Steelers started their 2008 AFC Divisional playoff game sluggishly until Santonio Holmes broke things open with a 67 yard punt return for a touchdown.
- Vs. the Ravens, Sanders of course didn’t make it (officially) to the end zone, but his return unequivocally announced to the Ravens that the Steelers were in it to win it.
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