With the season now over its time to start preparing for next year. One of the issues facing the Steelers this offseason will be what to do with free-agent wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery.
Odds are they will only be bringing one of them back next year—if either.
Sanders is 26 and is entering what is the prime of most wide receivers careers which means he will be looking for a good contract. Despite having what most Pittsburghers will see as a disappointing season, there will be a number of teams looking to give the young wide out the type of contract he will be looking for once free agency hits. Sanders finished the season with 67 catches for 740 yards, both second on the team. As to be expected with a number two wide out, Sanders finished second in most receiving categories for Pittsburgh this year. One of those categories is drops, though I think he might be first in most fans minds having dropped the two point conversion needed to tie Baltimore in Week 13.
Cotchery is 31 and has passed prime age for a wide out. That said, Cotchery had a productive year as the Steelers number three guy. He amassed 46 catches for 602 yards. His most impressive stat was his career best ten touchdown catches, which was good for tops on the team beating out Sanders’ six and Antonio Brown’s eight. If you didn’t see, one might think that was a product of Heath Miller being injured early in the year but most of those touchdowns came later in the year once Miller had worked his way back to good health. Being an older wide out there shouldn’t be much of a market for Cotchery once free agency starts and Pittsburgh should be able to sign him at a reasonable price. Rumor is Cotchery is a fan of the city and loves playing with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger so the Steelers should have an edge over most other teams that might have interest in the veteran receiver.
Now it is possible that the Steelers could keep both wide outs, though that seems unlikely considering the Steelers other needs and cap situation. There is also the chance they will let both receivers leave via free agency, but that also seems unlikely as they will not want to enter next season with only one veteran receiver with any real starting experience. Although they most like would like to keep the younger Sanders, smart money will be on them allowing Sanders to leave and sign Cotchery back with a team friendly contract. Whichever one they lose, Pittsburgh will be looking for this year’s rookie Markus Wheaton to pick up the lost production. Wheaton was slowed with a finger injury this year but most have high hopes for the Mike Wallace-type receiver. This will be one of many big decisions in what should, and needs to be, an eventful offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they try to get back into Super Bowl contention.
—If you want to check out some videos of the best plays of the 2013 season, CLICK HERE.