Last month, Steelers legendary linebacker James Harrison was released after nine mostly awesome seasons in Pittsburgh. However, for every handful of Steelers fans who were saddened by the news, there were probably one or two who were a little more detached to this development.
I certainly fell into the "detached" category. Don't get me wrong. It's not like I was glad to see Harrison depart the team--far from it--it's just something you grow to expect over the years, thanks to things like a salary cap and unrestricted free agency. And when you throw age into the mix (no player has ever defeated Father Time), some fans just learn to develop a desensitized attitude about these things.
If there was anyone who was baptized by fire, it's a fan like me who started following the team in 1980 at the young age of 7. Within five seasons of making the conscious decision of putting all my heart and soul into every Steelers' victory and defeat, players the caliber of Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, LC Greenwood, Mike Wagner, Dwight White and Franco Harris had left the team.
Today, those players from those legendary Super 70s teams are the 100 yard stick by which we measure most Steelers players and teams. Once you've seen that kind of mass exodus, nothing really can approach that.
For my money, I say, keep him. After all, it will only cost the Steelers another $1.3 million, and Sanders has shown more than enough potential, if not solid productivity, during his three years in Pittsburgh.
Others say, let him walk and take the extra pick. After all, what's potential, anyway? Besides that, an extra third round pick can help replenish a roster that sorely needs play-makers and depth (evidently, an extra third round pick is the new "can't miss, top 10 pick).
My counter-argument to that is the Steelers have already lost so many fairly productive recent early round draft choices--Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis and Rashard Mendenhall--do they really want to let another recent early round pick walk, especially with the scary depth problems at wide receiver as well as Heath Miller's health status heading into next season?
We can go round-and-round about that and never agree, so I don't know the answer to whether or not Pittsburgh should match the offer for Sanders.
However, I do remember it being said not long ago that, thanks to "Young Money," the Steelers had the best receiving corps in the NFL. And now that the team is facing the possibility of losing a second-third of the trio, some fans are more than happy to receive an extra third round pick in exchange as compensation?
I'm not saying Sanders is anything great--letting him walk may be the best decision in the long-run--but situations like this are why some fans like yours truly don't really get too emotional when even a legend like Harrison exits after an illustrious career.
You almost have to develop a sense of detachment.
Like comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, we're basically rooting for the clothes.
And as I stated in a previous post: the colors of the Black and Gold are the one true constant and always seem to come out of the wash looking as vibrant as ever.
I'll never emotionally detach myself from the Pittsburgh Steelers.