Like a lot of players, Emmanuel Sanders wants to get into coaching when his playing days end. That does not mean the Steelers wide receiver, who is expected to return this week after missing two games because of knee surgery, is ready to put on a headset.
"[The injury] made me make a realization about this game," said Sanders, 24.
"Don't take it for granted. Today could be my last day. You've just got to come at it from that perspective."
Sanders practiced fully Wednesday and Thursday and, barring an unexpected setback, expects to play Sunday night against the Chiefs in Kansas City. He injured his knee in the Steelers' 25-17 win against New England Oct. 30 and had arthroscopic surgery shortly thereafter.
Thursday, Sanders said his knee felt good and that there has been no swelling, a good sign in his recovery.
"I just go to practice, try and put some WD-40 on my game," he said."I've been out for two weeks so I'm looking to pick up where I left off."
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Sanders was not quite playing at his pre-injury level but that he expected him to get back there by Sunday.
The injury came just as Sanders was starting to find his groove in the Steelers offense. After six consecutive games of two or fewer catches, he had five receptions against both Arizona and New England.
In the past two games, however, Antonio Brown has excelled in Sanders' role, catching five passes for 109 yards against the Baltimore Ravens and five more for 86 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Sanders made it clear, though, that there is no position battle going on between them.
"At the end of the day, we're a receiving corps," he said. "I'm extremely happy for those guys. I hope I can come in and add a new dimension to make us even better."
Arians said that Sanders' understanding of the game as both an inside and outside receiver make him a valuable asset.
Fellow receiver Mike Wallace noted Sanders is one of the most cerebral of the receivers, likely a good reason a role on the sidelines may be in his future.
"Everything you tell him, he takes it in," Wallace said. "He always says that, when he's done playing football, he wants to be a coach, so everything he does is real technical.
"He really wants to learn."
During his recovery, Sanders also dealt with the loss of his mother, who died Nov. 1. He said the hardest part was comforting his younger sisters, 19 and 22.
"They leaned on my mom a lot," he said.
"So, now, I've got to come in and fill that void. I've embraced it, just filling that role. They kind of took it hard, so I had to be there for them."
Wallace said he called and texted Sanders, letting him know that his teammates were there to support him through the grieving process.
"They've helped me out a lot," Sanders said. "They've been definitely like a band of brothers, my support system. Whenever I get down or if anything happens, I go to them."
As difficult as the past few weeks have been for him, Sanders said he has grown from the experience.
"I'm only 24 years old, but it seems like I'm going through a lot," he said.
"At the end of the day, I always look at the glass half full. That's just how I look at life. I'm always going to try and have fun, and I'm going to continue to be that way."
NOTES -- Ben Roethlisberger (right thumb) participated fully in practice Thursday after limited participation Wednesday. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) was limited both days, but safety Troy Polamalu (ribs) practiced fully both days.
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459