Sanders made a trip to Foxborough earlier today. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Even if Emmanuel Sanders Stays, Wide Receiver Still a Problem Position for Steelers

I for one believe that Emmanuel Sanders’ recent trip to Foxborough was nothing more than an attempt by New England’s Front Office people to force Brandon Lloyd to restructure his current deal.  Nevertheless, it would not shock me in the least if members of the Patriots’ brass want to sign Pittsburgh’s versatile pass-catcher.  When healthy, Sanders has not only been a reliable 3rd Wide Receiver for the Steelers (2012: 44 Catches, 626 Yards, 1 TD), but has also chipped in as a Kickoff and Punt Returner for the franchise too.

Regardless of whether or not Pittsburgh’s Restricted Free Agent goes to New England though, Wide Receiver will continue to exist as a position of need for the team due to the lack of depth there. 

Behind Antonio Brown, the only players currently on the Steelers’ roster with any sort of expereince are veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress.

I personally have no idea how much “Plax” has left in the tank, but I will be interested to see how he performs after a full offseason of workouts and Preseason games under his belt for the first time since 2008. 

While Burress (2012: 3 Catches, 42 Yards, 1 TD) is no longer the game-breaking pass-catcher he once was, his height (6’6”), and experience could still make him a valuable weapon for Big Ben to utilize in the Red Zone.  I should also add that with Tight End Heath Miller still recovering from his knee injury, the Steelers will need a tall target for Roethlisberger to find while Heath is sidelined.  Burress however is nearing 36 years of age and is only signed through the 2013 season.  Thus, his future with the franchise beyond 2013 is murky at best.  

I like Jerricho Cotchery as a run-blocker and reliable Slot Receiver (2012: 17 Catches, 205 Yards).  But Jerricho will turn 32 next year, and will become an Unrestricted Free Agent to boot.  The Steelers are sure to be “cap-crunched” again next offseason, and will likely try to get younger on both sides of the ball unless the Front Office continues to re-up washed-up and past-their-prime veterans like William Gay and Larry Foote.  So by the time next Spring rolls around, it could be a “numbers game” for Jerricho.  Like Burress, Cotchery might also be forced to leave town if he is deemed “too expensive” or “replaceable” by those running the “rebuilding show” in Pittsburgh.

As far as any depth I did not mention, I guess I could include David Gilreath in the “WR mix” as well.  Yet I highly doubt that the Steelers’ Coaching Staff would waste a roster spot on him when they already have Cotchery, and possibly even Sanders, set to play in the Slot for next year.  If Gilreath is able to make the roster though, it would probably be as a Returner and Special Teams player, not a Wide Receiver.

If you have not noticed by now readers, it would be downright foolish of Colbert & Co. to ignore their team’s lack of depth at Wide Receiver.  With Pittsburgh’s current issues not going away at the position, they must find a way to cover their loss of Mike Wallace, and potentially Sanders, through the Draft process.

My ultimate hope is that the Patriots will pass on Sanders, and this whole situation only began because “Grumbledore” and the rest Front Office did not want to pay Lloyd his roster bonus worth $3 million.  But regardless of whether or not “Manny” takes his skill-set up to Foxborough, the exisiting depth at Wide Receiver is a major cause for concern for the Steelers.

Sadly for Big Ben and the rest of Pittsburgh’s Offense, that particular position will continue to remain an issue until it is properly addressed.




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Tags: 2013 Free Agency 2013 NFL Draft Emmanuel Sanders Pittsburgh Steelers

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