Emmanuel Sanders excited to start

Updated: May 1, 2013, 4:50 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Emmanuel Sanders says that he loves the Steelers and that, despite signing an offer sheet with New England Patriots, he views remaining in Pittsburgh as a "win-win situation."

A restricted free agent, Sanders signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Patriots, but the Steelers matched the offer to keep the speedy wide receiver.

"It was a win-win situation. I wasn't surprised [that Pittsburgh matched the offer]," Sanders said during an interview with ESPN's "First Take" on Wednesday morning. "I know my talent. I'm really good when I get the opportunity."

If the Steelers didn't match the offer, Pittsburgh would have received a third-round draft pick from the Patriots.

The 26-year-old Sanders, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next year, said he would like to sign a long-term contract with the Steelers.

"I love the Pittsburgh Steelers," he said. "I want to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. I'm happy that I'm still a Pittsburgh Steeler. Hopefully we can work out a long-term deal, and I can be a Steeler for my entire career."

Sanders is a quick, athletic receiver who caught a career-high 44 passes in 2012, doubling his production from the previous season. He emphasized that his initial decision to sign with New England was not for financial reasons.

"It wasn't about the money," he said. "I play the game because I love the game. ... I realized I was valuable. A lot of teams got to calling my agent at the 4 p.m. deadline [when free agency opened], and I took a step back and I had the New England Patriots and other teams, and I wanted to play for New England."

By keeping Sanders, the Steelers fulfilled the wishes of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was lobbying the team to keep one of his main targets.

Sanders was expected to replace Mike Wallace, who signed with the Miami Dolphins this offseason, in the starting lineup opposite Antonio Brown.

"I had to make the best decision for Emmanuel," he said. "And that's what Mike Wallace had to do. It's never about the team. Mike loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I love the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's business, it's nothing personal.

"I'm happy but I'm sad that [Wallace] is gone, because that's my brother. We came in together, we worked hard together. But at the same time, I'm looking forward to being a starter."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

  • So Hard To Say Goodbye
    Gordon Edes has some ideas for Derek Jeter's upcoming farewell at Fenway Park.
  • Belichick To Gronk: Not So Fast
    Rob Gronkowski declared himself a go for Sunday, but Bill Belichick won't commit.
  • How We See It
    The games start soon, so it's time for our Pats pick: They'll start 9-0, but won't finish perfect.
  • Rivalry At Rest
    The last-place Red Sox face a Yankees team clinging to a possible playoff bid.
  • Ready Or Not
    Mailbaggers do some last-minute second-guessing of Belichick's grand plan.

ALSO SEE

MORE NFL HEADLINES