It has been a rough few days for Emmanuel Sanders.
After a practice Thursday, he was razzed hard by his teammates for getting taken down by the punter on what should have been a touchdown a week ago in a win against the New York Giants.
"Slow Money," cornerback Keenan Lewis quipped about Sanders, a reference to the "Young Money" nickname of the Steelers wide receivers corps.
On Friday, "Slow Money" became "No Money" after being docked $15,000 by the NFL for what league officials felt was a feigned injury that allowed the Steelers to stop the clock without using a timeout in a late drive in an October victory at Cincinnati. On Saturday, Sanders said little on the matter other than he will appeal the levy.
But relative to where he was a year ago at this time, if this counts as a tough week for a third-year wide receiver -- one in which he prepares to start Monday night against Kansas City in place of an injured Antonio Brown -- he likely will take it.
He spent the second half of the 2011 season mired with injuries -- first a knee injury that cost him two games, then a foot injury that forced him out for three more. Personally, he suffered the worst kind of loss. His mother, Stephanie, passed away suddenly Nov. 1, 2011 at 41.
"I had a lot of ups and downs and tough times with my mom passing away, and not being able to play," Sanders said. "The thing is -- it's life. Unfortunately, I thought it would never happen to me, but it did and it's a situation that -- I've got two [younger] sisters -- I had to handle."
Football became therapy as much as it was his livelihood.
"When I came to work, it exited my mind off of it," Sanders said. "I was always taught that once you cross over those lines, everything that's going on in your personal life -- forget about it and just singularly focus. This team, and playing football, helped me throughout that whole process."
His father, Joel, moved in with him in Pittsburgh not long after his mother's passing to help him cope with the loss and, as a professional cook, keep his son's training table up to snuff.
"He's like my personal chef -- he prepares meals for me, makes sure I'm eating the right stuff and keeping my weight up," Sanders said.
During training camp Sanders said he felt like a new man, no longer nagged by injuries and ready to come into his own. He has consistently produced at the third receiving spot, averaging 12.6 yards per reception over 24 catches, with his first touchdown reception coming against the Giants. He hopes to improve on those numbers starting in the No. 2 wideout position for Brown.
"He's been ready," Mike Wallace said. "He's a great player, he's always been ready -- I'm excited for him get his opportunity."
Standing out in the "Young Money" receiving corps is no small feat. Brown has exceptional hands. Wallace's speed is well-documented. For Sanders, it's being technically sound with his pass routes, something that fellow receiver Jerricho Cotchery noticed while still playing for the New York Jets, before joining Sanders as a teammate.
"When he came in as a rookie, you saw a guy who was pretty polished -- guys like that catch your eye," Cotchery said. "Everybody knew that if he was to stay healthy, he'd be a guy that would make plays and that's what he's doing right now."
Said Sanders: "I've always taken pride in perfecting route-running. In college, I used to study all the guys -- even guys that I played with. When I got here I studied Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes and Mike Wallace. I studied guys like Jerry Rice. I took pride in it and it all pays off. Once you do something so many times, it becomes part of you.
"It's attention to detail -- it's like playing golf -- you've got to be locked in and focused on every shot. So is route-running. You've got to take it one play at a time, one route at a time to be fundamentally sound.
"Nice crisp routes. It excites me when guys are like, 'that's a great route' -- I like to hear that."
Sanders showed he's a scoring threat on special teams, substituting for Brown as a punt returner last week, even if he did get caught by punter Steve Weatherford after a 63-yard fourth-quarter return.
"I got took down by a very athletic punter," he deadpanned.
Sanders will return punts again Monday but said he hasn't analyzed Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt's tackling ability.
"That, I don't know. But hopefully I can find out."
NOTES -- In addition to Sanders' fine, the Steelers also were fined $35,000 for the incident but offered no comment. ... Isaac Redman will start at running back for the second consecutive game with Jonathan Dwyer also ready to go after a quad injury kept him inactive last week. Rashard Mendenhall is listed as doubtful. Linebacker Chris Carter is questionable; safety Troy Polamalu, wide receiver Antonio Brown, tackle Marcus Gilbert and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester are out.Steelers - mobilehome
Dan Gigler: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @ gigs412.