Emmanuel Sanders excited to start
SVP & Russillo
Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders chats about his offseason, the process of being an unrestricted free agent, how close he was to signing with the Patriots and what his role will be with Pittsburgh's offense now that he's back with the Steelers.
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.
"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.