I 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.