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Emmanuel Sanders hopes to reward Steelers' faith

The Pittsburgh Steelers showed their belief in Emmanuel Sanders when they matched the New England Patriots' offer to the wide receiver in restricted free agency.

Now Sanders has a chance to reward his team's faith. He began organized team activities last week working in Mike Wallace's old spot on the outside. Entering his fourth NFL season, Sanders is about to receive his first shot as a starting wide receiver.

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"It felt good to be wanted," Sanders said of Bill Belichick's play for his services, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "But at the end of the day, I'm still a Pittsburgh Steeler. I have one more year here, and hopefully, it can continue into a long-term deal because I want to be here."

As Wallace proved, large paydays await wide receivers who prove themselves to be playmakers. Sanders' agent, Jordan Woy, said his client likely will test next year's free-agent market unless the Steelers offer a "very good deal." Given the Steelers' history, a big season actually could be Sanders' ticket out the door.

But let's not assume Sanders will go off in 2013. He has 94 career receptions in three seasons and has found the end zone just five times in 40 games. His production should climb with more opportunities, but the Steelers are taking a leap of faith here.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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