Rebuilding or reloading? That’s the age old question when a team starts to hemorrhage players and doesn’t replace them. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, I went into the offseason with the mindset of a reload, but not quite one week into the NFL free agency period it appears that it is much more of a rebuild. That point could be emphasized in the next week with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Sanders is a restricted free agent for the Steelers. This means that the Steelers have tendered an offer to him that would require any team that chose to sign Sanders to a contract would have to surrender a third round pick to the Steelers if they didn’t match it in a week. Well, that might be exactly what happens this week as the New England Patriots are reported to have made an offer to Sanders, and the Steelers are on the clock. This is still unconfirmed, but there is a great deal of speculation.
Logic would dictate that the Steelers, after losing wide receiver Mike Wallace to free agency, would simply match the offer and try and keep their top two remaining wide receivers on the roster if this rumor is true. The problem is the Patriots have a much more stable salary cap situation and I would expect the Patriots to front load that contract to preclude the Steelers from being able to match it. The Steelers front office is going to have to work miracles to make this work.
My take-I am growing more and more concerned with this team. If this rumor is true and Sanders is gone, this roster is growing more and more talent poor. With a Baltimore Ravens team in rebuild as well, the AFC North is ripe for the picking if the Steelers can get past the Cincinnati Bengals. But if they continue to let talent walk, there is only so much that can be expected. If they do lose Sanders, the team’s top priority will almost certainly be a wide receiver in the draft, meaning the pass rush would have to wait. Best just to hope the Patriots really don’t give Sanders an offer and the Steelers are able to hold onto him.