The Pittsburgh Steelers have until Sunday to decide whether or not to match the New England Patriots offer sheet to restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders.
Many reports say the Steelers are 50-50 on the idea of whether to bring Sanders back or not, but if it were up to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, it would be a very easy decision.
CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora reported Friday that Big Ben has lobbied coach Mike Tomlin and others within the Steelers’ organization to keep Sanders in black and gold.
You can’t blame Roethlisberger for being a bit nervous about losing another weapon.
With Mike Wallace already bolting for the Miami Dolphins, if the Steelers elect to take the third-round pick and not match the offer sheet to Sanders, Big Ben will see a combined 108 catches, 1,462 yards and nine touchdowns from last season be gone within the span of a month. Sanders had career highs in receptions and yards in 2012, and he just turned 26.
It’s doubtful that Sanders is viewed in the long-term plans, which is another reason why they may not match the offer, but for the short-term it sticks Roethlisberger in a tough spot.
Without Sanders and Wallace, Antonio Brown is the clear cut No. 1. Brown had a bit of a disappointing 2012 season with Wallace and Sanders in the lineup. But Brown could see a lot more double teams with the likes of Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery on the other side.
I have been on record as saying the Steelers shouldn’t match Sanders’ offer sheet.
But if they really think they can compete for a Super Bowl next season, you have to surround your best player with weapons.
As it looks now Roethlisberger could be taking the field in 2013 with no running game and the likes of Brown, Burress and Cotchery at wide receiver. That’s not to mention the fact that tight end Heath Miller is coming off of ACL surgery.
They likely will address the situation in the draft, but if they do decide to let Sanders walk, it wouldn’t be the worst decision in the world long-term, but it also wouldn’t be the best recipe for winning in the short-term.
It looks like Roethlisberger has one more day to make his case.