We’ve all had 36 hours or so to digest the move by the Pittsburgh Steelers in which they matched the offer by the New England Patriots to keep Emmanuel Sanders. It’s no secret I was in favor of letting Sanders walk for a multitude of reasons but what’s done is done. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have questions in the aftermath however….
1. What does this mean for the draft? I have to believe at this junction, the Steelers will move away from a receiver in round one unless someone they really covet is there. While my belief is that this team needs players now, I’m starting to guess they go defense with the 17th pick which more than likely means a special teamer in year one. Dick LeBeau just doesn’t play many rookies.
2. Was this P.R. related or really a ‘football move?’ This was brought up by Daniel Dudley yesterday during my weekly appearance on Trib-Live Radio (shameless plug) and I think it has some merit. By keeping Sanders, the front office appeases Ben Roethlisberger which isn’t something they are known to do.
The easy explanation is that they needed to keep Sanders because Mike Wallace was already gone and Heath Miller is recovering from knee surgery. With Antonio Brown playing the one receiver, who was going to play the #2? I get it for 2013, but chances are Sanders is gone next year regardless of his performance.
3. Is Sanders expected to be a number 2 receiver? I’ve never seen Sanders as anything but a slot receiver guy. If he is the #2 then that gives the Steelers two starting wideouts both under six feet. No offense to the vertically-challenged in the audience, but I’d prefer at least one of my starting wideouts be a little bigger than six foot.
4. Does keeping Sanders really make the Steelers better than without him? I argued against matching the offer for Sanders for several reasons. Injury history, the fact that he’ll be a rental for one year and most importantly that we would have four picks in the top 91.
While I understand Roethlisberger wanting to keep his receivers as familiar as possible, does the retaining of Sanders really take an 8-8 team to a 10-6 or 11-5 record? Not in my opinion does it. The extra pick would have come in handy for a team literally in a re-building phase.
5. Are Brown and Sanders better without Wallace? I’ve seen this mentioned more than once and a reader today brought this up as well and it deserves a mention. I know I wasn’t the only one that wondered aloud last year in that I felt Wallace may have been a negative influence on both Antonio Brown and Sanders.
Wallace was clearly troubled through much of the season by his contract situation and I think that rubbed off on his teammates whether they would admit it or not. I find it very possible that both Brown and Sanders could thrive without Wallace both in the locker room and on the field.
Granted, they won’t have him stretching the field the way he did the last couple of seasons, but I still think without the pouting speedster, they could have good seasons.
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.