Steelers Match Offer For Sanders; Was it the Right Move?

Emmanuel SandersI do my very best as often as I can to see both sides of an argument and when it comes to the Steelers I try even harder. In the case of Steelers’ wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and ‘should they or shouldn’t they,’ I feel confident I’ve been able to grasp both sides of the debate pretty well.

Last night, the Steelers matched New England’s offer of $2.5 million for one year in order to keep Sanders. I have been clearly on the side that did not want the Steelers to match, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see and appreciate their reason for doing so.

Obviously, the Steelers were concerned about their already weak receiving crops and rather than put their faith in the draft, they chose to stay with what they know. From that respect, I completely understand the move and I’m sure Ben Roethlisberger is relieved this morning to know that Sanders will be back.

By keeping Sanders, the Steelers are now dangerously close to the cap limit. They are roughly $700,000 under the cap but on June 1st, Willie Colon’s $5.5 million will come off the books. That’s the good news because the bad news is that most of money will be soaked up by signing drafted rookies and rookie free agents.

The likelihood of signing any veteran free agents at this point, as if you didn’t know, is doubtful.

As well as I saw both angles of debate, I have pretty much been in the ‘don’t match’ camp from the get-go. My reasoning is based on several factors which I’ve spelled out in other articles about this but basically I have strong concerns about the retaining of Sanders.

First, was Sanders kept to be a number two receiver or a slot receiver? Personally, I just don’t see him as a number two. My hope is that Plaxico Burress, with a full training camp under his belt, emerges as the number two allowing Sanders to play in the slot where I believe he is better.

Secondly, how did his health not play into this? It still might, but for me it was another reason to let him go. He has played in 13, 11 and 15 games in his three-year career which isn’t terrible, but his type of injury worries me greatly. If he had suffered a broken hand then I wouldn’t be as concerned but his injuries have been to his feet and that is not good for anyone let alone an NFL receiver.

Third, the Steelers have backed themselves into a corner somewhat by retaining him. If they don’t work out a long-term deal (and is this a guy you do that with? I say no.) then you are essentially renting him for a year and then he departs via free agency and the Steelers will get nothing for him.

Put it this way, if Sanders has a huge year, he is going to be just like Mike Wallace in the sense that someone will be willing to overpay. If he has a poor season or has injury problems, he may not be wanted in free agency but why would the Steelers want him either? By not letting him go to New England, the Steelers give up a draft pick that would have given them four in the first 91 picks.

Of course there is no way to know how successful that selection would be but it is an extra pick for a team with many needs and holes to fill.

Ultimately, we will not know how this decision looks until after the season is over but I fear it will look bad more than it will good in the long run. I like Sanders a lot in terms how hard he plays and what he can do on the field, but will he hold up and is he a guy you sign long-term?

I have my doubts but at least I can say I’ve seen both sides of the argument. Now it’s up to time to tell us if the Steelers were right.

Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.

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7 comments on “Steelers Match Offer For Sanders; Was it the Right Move?

  1. I think it all comes down to whether or not we lock Sanders up long term before this season starts. If they do, then I think you can reasonably argue for either side.

    If they don’t lock him up, then I don’t see much of an argument for matching. This team is rebuilding even if the fans and Colbert aren’t willing to admit that (unless we have a draft like Seattle last season with lots of fast contributors), and Sanders isn’t the difference between us winning and not winning the Superbowl.

  2. I understand both sides but feel that they could of taken the pick plus picked up either Breaston or Doucet who know Hayles system.
    By keeping Sanders I hope they can sign him longterm but why would he want to? By re-signing him it doesn’t force them to take a Wr in the first. However I think It’s smarter to grab Cordarrell Paterson now because he doesn’t have to start & can return kicks this year. I also think Eifert us in play due to nice hands,height plus he can play in the slot. He’s a matchup nightmare.

  3. According to PFT his agent just said what I didn’t want to hear. Other teams made offers and They might playout the season. The Steelers need to come up with a lucrative deal for Sanders to take the offer. Thats what I thought and it would of been Smarter to take the pick and grab two wr in rds 1 &2. Trade down in RD one get an extra pick then draft a Wr.

    • This is another huge reason I wanted to take the pick. Whether he has a great season or poor season he isn’t coming back. Locking up a guy with a history of foot injuries long-term doesn’t sit well with me either.

  4. I can see both sides of the argument for signing Sanders or not. I’m trying to keep faith in the front office of the Steelers that they know what they are doing when it comes to retaining players or not, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep that faith. They have to know something the rest of us don’t, like a long term deal is all but done, or that what are supposed to be great picks in the draft aren’t. Doubt the later is the case, but maybe. Matching that kind of money for one season when your salary cap strapped doesn’t make sense without having long term all but signed. Since it’s all done, no need to argue if it was right or not, no changing it. The pressure is now on Sanders to prove he was worth the cost over what could have been had, or what else is lost in the fall out. The pressure is also on Colbert and the front office for Sanders to have a good year and prove they were right. If the injuries of the past jump back up, or the production isn’t there, another mistake in the front office, and maybe time to start thinking about changes there instead of changing coaches.

  5. If Ben wants Sanders around then you sign him, period. I think they did a disservice to the offense when they fired B.Aryans. At the very least the captain of the team should have receivers he feels comfortable with if you refuse to let him have an offensive coach he trusts. I sometimes think Wallace was a distraction to the other receivers. You may just see Sanders have his best year coming up. The Steelers organization must do their best to sign him long term if he does produce this season.

    • Thanks for reading Kai. I fully admit I was on board with moving away from Arians. That said, I didn’t think Haley would be the guy… One thing I really like that you said was bout Wallace being a distraction last season and I totally agree with that. I’m thinking both Brown and Sanders are better without him in 2013.

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