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Monday, February 17, 2014

Will the Steelers part ways with Emmanuel Sanders?

By on 2/17/2014 03:00:00 PM

The Pittsburgh Steelers are just like every other team in the NFL right now, scratching their heads and trying to figure out what to do with their players entering free agency next month.  One debatable decision is what to do with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, a four-year veteran in Pittsburgh.

Sanders will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and what makes his future hard to predict is that a case can be made for the Steelers either to re-sign him or to let him walk. The Steelers liked him enough to match the one-year, $2.5 million contract he signed with the Patriots as a restricted free agent last March, turning down a potential third-round draft pick as compensation instead of retaining Sanders.

26-year-old Sanders was drafted by the Steelers in 2010 and has progressively made a name for himself in the second wide receiver slot, producing 2,030 yards and 11 touchdowns in 56 games played.

Jeffery Beall via Wikimedia Commons
Sanders suffered a seemingly scary knee injury in week 15 versus the Packers, leaving the game in the first half. Steelers fans heaved a sigh of relief when the report came out that Sanders had sustained a sprain to his lateral meniscus and would not require surgery. Officially listed as questionable for week 16, Sanders adhered to the team's medical advice and ended up back on the field for the Steelers' regular season finale.

The strength and durability of Sanders may not be enough for Pittsburgh to keep him in Steeler nation.  Despite his 740 yards and six touchdowns this past season, Sanders' well-documented drops have raised questions about his consistency, and his high opinion of his skills will price him out of the Steelers' range if another team agrees with him.
"I feel like I've showcased enough to show that I am a starter in this league," said Sanders."I feel like I've gotten better. I'm really liking where my game's going. I've got a lot to build off of for the rest of my career."
Some think the Steelers might want to draft or sign a taller receiver to start opposite Antonio Brown, as Brown is comparably the same size as Sanders, who is five-foot-eleven.  Others have reasons to believe 2013 third-round draft pick Markus Wheaton is not only better suited for the role, but also offers more play making ability.

Sanders at least figures to test the market this year, and the interest he generates as an unrestricted free agent could be the biggest factor in whether the Steelers make a serious run at re-signing him. One thing is for sure, Sanders wants to remain in Pittsburgh if possible.
"I want to be here. I love it here," Sanders said. "I hope everything works out for the best.  I'm still optimistic that everything will work itself out."

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