When you enter the NFL and immediately put yourself in a trio with two other wide receivers who refer to themselves as the money crew, you’re bound to get some attention. Emmanuel Sanders is staying with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2013 NFL season, but more likely than not it’ll become his last.
Entering the recent offseason as a restricted free agent, Sanders did get one offer worth $2.5 million for one year from the New England Patriots, which the Steelers surprised a few by matching. With Mike Wallace gone due to his excessive demands, the Steelers didn’t splash into the free agent market which didn’t have a lot to offer, or use their first pick on a wide receiver.
Instead, they’re just going to let both Antonio Brown and Sanders raise their game a little bit. Brown was the team’s third leading receiver last season with 66 receptions for 787 yards, missing three games, while Sanders was fourth with 44 receptions for 626 yards. Both of them will be getting a lot more throws flying their way, as Brown hopes to return to his 2011 form, when he caught 69 passes for 1108 yards, leading the NFL in yards per touch that season.
Beyond them? Heath Miller is recovering from an ACL & MCL tear, which means he might not be as effective as he’s been in the past for Ben Roethlisberger, catching 71 passes for 816 yards. Both Brown and Sanders will see a lot coming their way, but rookie Markus Wheaton, a third round pick out of Oregon State, will probably see quite a lot of action as well.
The Steelers are hoping to regain a little bit of their running identity in any case. shown by their second round pick of Le’Veon Bell. Their best years under Tomlin and Roethlisberger came with the ground game being the important part, something they drifted away from over the last couple of seasons.
Sanders, probably looking for a big contract once this season is over, despite not really showing anything out of the ordinary up to this point in his three-year NFL career, is going to need to do something quite special to convince the Steelers to open their wallet for him. In any case, he’s going to test free agency, because he and his agent Jordan Woy think he’s that good. Sanders is trying to separate the football from the business, but it’s usually impossible.
The Steelers can always use the franchise tag on him, but they haven’t used that option since 2010 on kicker Jeff Reed, and their cap situation is going to be quite tricky in 2014 as well. Wide Receivers found plenty of money thrown at them this off-season, as usual. Sanders will probably be too tempted not to give it a go, regardless of how well the season goes for him in 2013.