WR Sanders healthy, motivated for Steelers

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Emmanuel Sanders caught a touchdown pass running a fade route during a drill Saturday.

Then after Pittsburgh Steelers receivers, defensive backs and quarterbacks turned around en masse and headed to the opposite end of Chuck Noll Field, Sanders caught another touchdown pass on the next play.

That was streaking across the back of the end zone during an 11-on-11 drill. Later in practice, he added another score when he reeled in a pass with his fingertips along the end zone's left sideline and capped off his ''four-touchdown day'' by catching a Ben Roethlisberger pass in stride as he was sprinting down the right sideline.

All in all, a good training camp day for Sanders.

Then again, any training camp day is a good one for Sanders - as long as he's not in pain.

Coming off an injury-filled season that included a camp in which he was rehabbing both feet after offseason surgery, Sanders says he's healthy, happy and ready for a breakout season.

''Oh my God, you have no idea, man,'' Sanders said when asked how much better he feels this training camp as opposed to the previous one.

''Last year around this time, I was down and out. And now I have an appreciation for training camp. A lot of those guys are like, `Argh, I gotta go to training camp.' I'm like, `Yes! Let's go to training camp! I'm healthy, I'm finally here.' So you know I'm enjoying it each day.''

Sanders is running as the team's second receiver, too, with Mike Wallace's holdout well into its second week.

Known as an ambitious, hard worker through his college and young pro career, Sanders spent his offseason mostly staying off his feet - and with some dramatically more pedestrian goals.

''My main goal this offseason was to stay healthy,'' he said.

Sanders broke his right foot during the February 2011 Super Bowl at the end of his rookie season. Later that offseason - one in which there was no minicamp or OTAs due to the lockout - Sanders had surgery on the left foot.

The result was a disjointed camp and start to the season. Sanders missed five games for the Steelers (No. 7 in the AP Pro32) due to injury and caught only 22 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

Sanders had a team-high six receptions for a career-high 81 yards in Pittsburgh's wild-card playoff loss in Denver. He's hoping that can serve as a springboard heading into this season.

A third-round pick after setting SMU career records for receptions, touchdown catches and yards, Sanders has been wowing coaches and teammates on the practice field throughout his brief NFL career with his speed, hands, route-running and quickness.

It's time to translate that to games, he said.

''My past three years I felt like I was working so hard, like I had something to prove in practice and things of that nature,'' Sanders said. ''But all this practicing does me no good. I need to make it to the games, so that's my main focus.''

With Hines Ward retired and Wallace's arrival in camp uncertain, Sanders could be in line for an increased workload.

If he can avoid injury.

''He's healthy, he's doing a nice job, he's prepared,'' coach Mike Tomlin said. ''He's a quality player. He understands the receiver position, buying space for himself. He's been doing a nice job.''

Notes: Tomlin had some fun with reporters who asked why Roethlisberger sat out the tail end of practice: ''Somebody stepped on his foot. You guys sure love the Ben updates.'' ... A day after G Willie Colon (ankle) and RB Isaac Redman (groin) sustained minor injuries during a practice at a local high school, neither practiced Saturday. Tomlin termed both ''day to day.'' ... The Steelers ran the goal-line drill in practice, with Tomlin declaring the defense the winner in the best-of-seven format of snaps from the 1 1/2-yard line. ... LBs Ryan Baker and Brandon Johnson each sustained ankle injuries Saturday.


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Tagged: Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders

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