Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to match the one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet given to restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders by the New England Patriots, we have a firmer grasp of what the wide position depth chart will look like heading into training camp.
To begin with, Sanders will obviously now start opposite Antonio Brown. Backing up those two will more than likely be Jerricho Cotchery, who is entering his third year with the team. Fourth on the depth chart currently is Plaxico Burress, who was re-signed to a one-year deal at the start of free agency.
In 2010, the Steelers traded Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets for their fifth-round draft pick. During the draft that followed both Sanders and Brown were selected and the Steelers started the season with six wide receivers on their 53 man roster. Will they dare carry six again this year, or is five the most likely number?
Arnaz Battle was one of the six wide receivers in 2010 and more of a special teams player than he was a reserve wide receiver. That makes me believe that we could be headed towards five this year, even if the Steelers wind up drafting two wide receivers in less than two weeks, which I doubt that they do now that Sanders has been retained.
We are pretty sure, however, that one drafted receiver will make the 53 man roster, so that leaves Burress as a player not guaranteed a roster spot right now. For him to not make the roster, a player such as David Gilreath, who saw very little time on the roster last year, will have to beat him out. That is not out of the question.
Gilreath, unlike Burress, can return both punts and kicks, so this could help his cause. Behind Gilreath, in no particular order, sits Bert Reed, Derek Moye and Kashif Moore, who are a long-shots to make the 53 man roster right now.
The Steelers will more than likely add a few undrafted receivers to serve as camp bodies, but it will be surprising to see any of them stick as well.
There is always the chance that the Steelers could still sign free agent wide receiver Steve Breaston at some point, assuming his knee is not a problem. This would further threaten the roster spot of Burress.
The one-year deal that the Steelers gave Burress included a $65,000 signing bonus and that is all that it will cost them against the cap should the former first-round pick not make the 53 man roster.
Some are already speculating how Burress will help the Steelers in 2013, but that is foolish, as he really isn\’t guaranteed anything but a spot at training camp right now.