Last offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to match the one-year, $2.5 million restricted offer sheet that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders signed with the New England Patriots. On Thursday at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, general manager Kevin Colbert was asked to reflect on that decision.
“I think any decision you look back on, you start with where we were,” Colbert said, according to ESPN.com. “We finished 8-8. In my opinion, none of the decisions were good enough because we weren’t in the playoffs.”
Sanders, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league, did, however, have career highs in catches (67), yards (740) and touchdowns (six) in his first full season as a starter. Still, as expected, the Steelers will let him test the free agent market knowing that he will likely sign elsewhere.
“Emmanuel came back and had a nice year for us, and we were happy to have him, and where he goes in free agency and what his market is, we don’t know at this point, but he certainly performed for us last year,” Colbert said. “And we’ll see where it is in the future.”
It has already been rumored that the New York Jets will make a run at Sanders, who was drafted in the third-round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In addition to them, the Patriots could also still have interest in signing him as well.
Sanders is expected to be one of the top five or six unrestricted free agent wide receivers on the market and while the Steelers generally like to re-sign their own free agents, Sanders market value is expected too rich for them.
The Steelers drafted Markus Wheaton last year with the hopes he would eventually become the starter. He missed valuable playing time during his rookie season because of a broken finger, but should benefit from having a full offseason this year under his belt.
The Steelers are also expected to make a concerted effort to retain veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who like Sanders, will be an unrestricted free agent in a matter of weeks. The team is also expected to address the wide receiver position during the draft and they reportedly have already told quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that they intend on getting him a “tall” wide receiver in the first few rounds.