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Monday Wakeup Call: Why Steelers right on Sanders

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

>> The Monday column is about baseball, this special young man in particular …


The game itself was as noteworthy as they come in April, with a 10-run rally and a sweep of maybe the National League’s most talented team.

Here’s what a guy with two home runs had to say …

>> If you missed it, the Sunday column covered the Riverhounds’ wonderful debut at Highmark Stadium. One of the neatest experiences I’ve had in this job. It’s also worth noting that we got a very good reaction from the readership to our coverage in general, including hit counts online. Expect to see more.

>> OK, with business out of the way, let’s get to the Steelers and Emmanuel Sanders

I’d written that they should keep him, that they likely would, and they ultimately did.

Good for them.

Let’s not kid anyone: This decision was going to be based off what Ben Roethlisberger needed and wanted, and he’s entitled to have that say as a two-time Super Bowl winning QB. If that offends anyone longing for the old days when even the most elite athletes had no say, so be it. Ben’s going to be 31 and would have had every right to be ticked had he lost Mike Wallace and Sanders and not had a meaningful free agent signed.

Analyzing this further is probably a waste of time, but since everyone will: The Steelers could have let the Patriots keep Sanders, saved $2.5 million, spared themselves the indignity of watching Sanders walk next spring as a free agent and, of course, gotten a third-round comp pick. And some of that inherently sounds pretty tempting.

But at what cost?

The 2013 Steelers needed another receiver, or they’d go into the season with Antonio Brown, Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery, and maybe cope for a spell without Heath Miller. Sorry, but that’s tantamount to forfeit, no matter if you brought in a rookie Earl Campbell to be your back.

That matters. It matters that a star QB in his prime isn’t tossing away an entire season.

Moreover, there’s nothing stopping the Steelers from drafting a wide receiver should they wish. People were talking as if the New England comp pick were the only way they’d ever pull that off. They could still have one in the first round should they so choose. (I’d hope not.)

The NFL exists on a year-to-year basis. The greatest turnarounds happen in football, the shortest period before free agency is in football, and what’s here today can be gone tomorrow with the next snap.

I won’t suggest Sanders doesn’t have flaws. He does, not least of which is the generally infantile behavior of the so-called Young Money crew. He’s not consistent enough, not durable enough. But he’s an established NFL wide receiver, he’s only 26, he can make plays and, way above all, this team needs that right now.

>> I’ll visit with TribLIVE Radio today at 11:30 a.m. to talk about all this with Ken Laird and Guy Junker. Hope you can join us. We’re one simple click away.

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Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

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