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NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Reciever Emmanuel Sanders Likely to Stay

Emmanuel Sanders

Jason Bridge- USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, it looked a little like the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to be very short-handed at wide receiver. They had given wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders a tender offer as a restricted free agent, which would allow the Steelers to retain him next season while they worked out a long-term contract extension. The offer would pay Sanders $1.23 million for 2013, a considerable raise over the $490,000 he was paid in 2012.

The way restricted free agency works, if another team would chose to sign Sanders to a contract, the Steelers would have a week to match it. If the Steelers chose not to, the team that signed him would give the Steelers their third round pick. A week ago, it sounded like the New England Patriots were the team to make that offer and their salary cap would allow them to make Sanders an offer the Steelers could not match.

But this week, it is being reported that the Patriots interest in Sanders has wavered and the team is instead pursuing Darrius Heyward Bey. This is excellent news for the Steelers, because it would have left a significant hole in the starting lineup if Sanders had left. This would be on the heels of losing wide receiver Mike Wallace as well, leaving only Antonio Brown on the team with any significant playing time.

Instead, the Steelers look to be able to retain Sanders and not be forced into a position to draft a wide receiver early, and they can instead focus on other areas in the 2013 NFL draft. This is great news for the Steelers and their fans, and gives optimism for the passing offense going forward.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft, and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.