Dec 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (88) returns a kick-off against the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Miami Dolphins won 34-28. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Will Pittsburgh Steelers Use Franchise Tag On Emmanuel Sanders Or Jason Worilds?

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and his staff have plenty of tough decisions to make this offseason.

One of them could revolve on whether or not to try and keep a current player for another year by using the team’s franchise tag.

Nov 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds (93) rushes the passer with Buffalo Bills tackle Erik Pears (79) blocking during the third quarter of a game at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won the game 23-10. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Tagging a player is something the Steelers usually stay away from. In all likelihood, that will be the case this offseason as well.

The Steelers haven’t used their franchise tag in three seasons, mostly due to their ongoing problems with the salary cap. Tagging a player does have some value to teams as it allows one more year to determine a player’s long-term value.

Looking at the Steelers’ current crop of free agents, there are only two players which made even a little bit of sense for the Steelers to consider franchising. It makes the least sense in the case of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

The Steelers like Sanders, but quite frankly he didn’t show enough this past season that would make me think the Steelers would invest a long-term contract in him.

Given the lack of depth at the wide receiver position, it would be nice to be able to franchise Sanders and get one more look at him throughout 16 games to determine if he is worth big money.

However by using the franchise tag on Sanders, the Steelers would have to commit almost $12 million to an inconsistent wide receiver and that is something that is entirely out of the question.

Tagging outside linebacker Jason Worilds makes a little more sense though.

Worilds came on very strong towards the end of the 2013 season, offering a glimpse of potentially being the Steelers’ next great pass-rusher coming off the edge.

However, consistency and injury problems have been a concern for Worilds his first three seasons, so it would be nice to get another 16-game evaluation on him before committing big money. The problem is it will be too costly.

Doing so with Worilds will cost the team close to $11 million next season and that is too much for a guy who really had only four or five dominant weeks.

At the end of the day using the franchise tag is pretty much out of the question for the Steelers.

I definitely don’t see Sanders coming back and with Worilds, the Steelers will have to hope some other team doesn’t jump on him with a big contract early in free agency.

If that happens, similar to last offseason with Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis leaving, the Steelers will have to be content with watching two good young players walk out the door.

Tags: Emmanuel Sanders Jason Worilds Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Carl Eagan

    Just by coincidence Worilds started playing like a beast the exact same time Heywood did. Hmm wonder if there’s a connection? OLB depand on the DE’s and the better the DE the better the OLB. Aaron Smith made many a left OLB look good and now Heywood is going to do the same.

    • Matt Gajtka

      Good point. Heyward seems to be the bigger priority to re-sign.

  • OVP66223

    If they franchise or even re-sign Sanders I will have a seizure. Sanders is mediocre and will be paid like he is an acceptable starting WR (he isn’t).

    Worilds is Woodley waiting to happen. I am sorry, sudden production late in a contract season is not worthy of a large and lengthy contract. If he can get a great offer elsewhere, the Steelers must let him go. They cannot afford to have 8 digit annual cap hits at THREE LB positions and maintain a decent team. They can’t cut Woodley, as the the cap hit is huge for a team already over the cap. Signing Worilds means overpaying two OLBs and also paying Timmons (good) a hefty sum. 35 million tied up in the 4 man LB core each season is TOO much. Have to find a young, cost-controlled LB or two to blend with higher paid vets.

  • OVP66223

    Basically, Sanders is the very definition of “replacement level player”. There are undersized WRs with speed and questionable football smarts all over the practice squads and free agency pools. No need to pay big bucks to a WR you could find a clone of sitting at home with a desperate agent willing to sign him up for the league minimum.