With center and outside linebacker depth addressed, the Steelers turned their attention to offensive skill positions in Round 3, taking wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders with their 82nd overall pick.
Sanders played 490 snaps in his rookie season with one start, catching 28 of 49 passes thrown his way, for 376 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned punts and kicks, including 25 kickoffs for 628 yards.
His role in the Steelers offense actually decreased in his second season; he played just 390 offensive snaps and had 22 receptions, 288 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while teammate Mike Wallace became the focus of the team's deep-passing offense.
That changed in 2012. The Steelers changed offensive coordinators, as Todd Haley replaced Bruce Arians, and Haley was less concerned with the Wallace-centric deep-passing offense the Steelers had been known for in recent years. Sanders' snaps increased with the switch, to 740, as did his receptions (44) and yards (626), though he had just one receiving touchdown.
Though the Steelers may not have known it when they drafted him, Sanders would become an extremely important member of the team.
With Wallace departing this offseason, Sanders is poised to be the team's new deep threat. Still, the Steelers almost lost him; the team gave Sanders an original-round restricted free-agent tender that drew the interest of the New England Patriots. Sanders signed New England's offer sheet, but the Steelers matched it, despite being strapped for cash.
A possession receiver with good speed and hands, Sanders fits the mold of the Steelers' current passing philosophy. He is poised for a breakout season in 2013.