NFL Trade Rumors: Steelers could be sellers as 4 p.m. deadline looms

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are a 2-5 team, and with the trade deadline approaching, they may look to make a move to help either the present or the future.

It's been several months of up-and-down speculation over the future of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in Pittsburgh. While there are still months in advance of the start of free agency in 2014, the NFL Trade Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Tuesday. It doesn't appear Sanders will be in Pittsburgh beyond the 2013 season, but it's not entirely out of the question he finishes the year in another uniform.

The Steelers, 2-5, have the longest of long odds to make the postseason. That doesn't ilicit an approach of having a fire sale on its roster, but it doesn't mean continuing down their current path will improve anything else.

Sanders will garner attention on the free agency market, and his services are going to be of value to teams looking to add a weapon for the second half of the season. The Steelers would receive a compensatory pick in the 2015 draft if Sanders signs elsewhere this offseason, but could get a pick in the upcoming 2014 draft if they traded him. Article 9, Section 3(h) of the CBA states in part (emphasis added):

…Nothing in this Subsection shall preclude a Prior Club from entering into a Player Contract with a player subject to a Tender, and subsequently trading that player under that Player Contract to another Club, provided that the player and the NFLPA must approve in advance any such trade that takes place during the Signing Period. If a Club exercises its Right of First Refusal and matches an Offer Sheet, that Club may not trade that player to the Club that submitted the Offer Sheet for at least one calendar year, unless the player consents to such trade

A decision to keep him in place does not necessarily mean the team wasn't willing to deal him, or anyone else. Grabbing a few extra picks may not be a terrible idea, as the Steelers look to rebuild a franchise that appears poised to go its second consecutive year without a playoff appearance, and third straight without winning a playoff game.

What would the going rate of Sanders be to a team like, say, Indianapolis, that recently lost WR Reggie Wayne for the year with a torn ACL? Or a team like the Carolina Panthers? At 4-3, they're on the fringe of the NFC's playoff picture, and Sanders' experience with a mobile quarterback who likes to go off-schedule may fit with the improving Cam Newton.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't shy away from the idea of finding external players to help the Steelers win the rest of the way. Perhaps they're looking at bringing someone in as opposed to dealing away what they have now.

The deadline is just a few hours away as of the time of publication, and it could be an interesting day around the league. Stay tuned.

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