There are many tough decisions that the Steelers must deal with this offseason, not the least of which is trying to sign Mike Wallace to a long term deal. If worse comes to worse they can franchise him to help ensure his services for another season, thus giving them more time to work on a long term deal. They’ve used their franchise tag in a similar manner in the past, on Lamarr Woodley for example. The team was able to work out a longer deal with Woodley during training camp and thus freed up the tag for use should they need it in the future. Had they not franchised the Pharaoh it’s no guarantee he would still be with the team this coming season.
Franchising a player is never a cap friendly move but it’s a necessary one to buy the 2 sides time to work out a deal. I would not be surprised at all to see Wallace get tagged, especially given the team’s cap situation this year. However as the title of this article states, Wallace isn’t the only big player they have to worry about for the future.
Both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will be restricted free agents in 2013, so if the Steelers want to keep this trio of weapons at Ben Roethlisberger’s disposal, they’ll have some work to do. Ideally the Steelers will normally try to keep players like Brown and Sanders from even sniffing the free agent market by getting them signed long term the year before their contracts are up. Because both will be restricted the team does have a bit of an advantage by being able to tender them the highest offers possible so should one of them leave, the Steelers could get a premium draft pick in compensation.
Antonio Brown figures to command more of the lion’s share of the money that may be allotted for the two. He was voted the team’s MVP for 2011, had over 1,000 yds receiving and in return yards. If he has another breakout year like this past season his deal could rival the amount of money that Mike Wallace is looking to make. Emmanuel Sanders missed X number of games due to foot and knee injuries that plagued him all year long. It wasn’t until late in the season that he was able to get back on the field regularly and contribute the way he wants. This is a big year coming up for #88; if he gets injured again and misses significant time it will cause teams to shy away from offering him the big money that he wants. Mike Tomlin will be looking to Sanders as well to step up and take on more of a role in the slot where he seemed to excel in last season. He’s a tough, fearless player who isn’t afraid to go across the middle.
With Todd Haley now running the offense, we’ll have to wait and see how much of an emphasis he puts on the pass vs. the run and how much the 3 young targets for Big Ben will be utilized. Regardless of how much throwing the offense does, the Steelers finally have a group of receivers capable of breaking a game open at any time. Finding a way to keep all 3 together will be a priority but how much of a reality is anyone’s guess. It’s rare to find a team with 3 top flight wide receivers signed to long term deals; 2 players yes but 3 is not that easy. There are only so many balls to go around and often times one of the 3 feels he can get more significant snaps by going to another team. So money isn’t always the issue with trying to keep together an offense.
Colbert and Tomlin have a good thing going on offense, let’s just hope they can keep it together.