This past Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to match the $2.5 million offer of the New England Patriots to retain wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Having already loss one receiver to free agency, the Steelers felt that it was best to keep Sanders in the Steel City, and not make their depth at wide receiver any thinner.
I feel that it’s great that Sanders will be in Pittsburgh for the 2013 season. However, looking at the big picture, all signs look to be pointed towards Sanders playing elsewhere in 2014.
It has been reported that Sanders and his agent was approached by more than the Patriots this offseason. Though the names of the other teams that have shown interest aren’t known, I’m pretty sure that they’ll come back around in the event Sanders becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2013 season.
Besides, looking at the history Pittsburgh has with salary cap issues, I don’t think that there is a chance that the organization will offer Sanders a long-term deal big enough to persuade him to stay in the Steel City. Year after year, the Steelers find themselves restructuring contracts and releasing veterans just to get under the cap, which leaves them little wiggle room to offer major contracts for current players and free agents.
The good news for Pittsburgh is that Sanders is open to playing out the year under his $2.5 million deal. I guess he feels that he is in a win-win situation. Sanders will either get his long-term deal with the Steelers prior to the 2013 season, or he’ll get it with another team next season.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that Sanders will more than likely continue his career with another team after 2013. Honestly, I don’t see Pittsburgh jumping through a bunch of hoops just to give Sanders a long-term deal, especially when they originally offered the 26-year-old receiver only a $1.3 million tender. If they really wanted Sanders, it wouldn’t have taken this long to make the decision to keep him.
Well, the only silver lining I see is that most players play their best when they are on the brink of being an unrestricted free agent. Players in such situations are determined to show the entire league that they are worth being paid big bucks. I actually won’t be surprised to see Sanders have a career year this season. Hopefully, this potential career year will help the Steelers get back on track and contend for the AFC North title.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google