Emmanuel Sanders has become the next offseason Mike Wallace

Jared Wickerham

Fair or unfair, Emmanuel Sanders's tour through restricted free agency and subsequent contract offer from New England will label him as a paycheck player, despite efforts to the contrary.

Emmanuel Sanders, formerly one-third of the Steelers' "Young Money" crew of receivers, has successfully flipped from face to heel, much like former teammate Mike Wallace.

Granted, Sanders shows no indication he will skip any team activities between now and the start of the season, the way Wallace notoriously did a year ago. Comments that appear to be born and bred in the murky waters of the "you're stupid enough to believe this" swamp aren't exactly helping Sanders win the hearts and minds of fans.

Most recently, it's a poor choice in words, if not a simple situation in which the appropriate filter isn't applied. In an interview with Post-Gazette reporter Ray Fittipaldo, Sanders slipped in a shade of Wallacean logic.

"It felt good to be wanted," Sanders said. "But at the end of the day, I'm still a Pittsburgh Steeler. I have one more year here, and hopefully, it can continue into a long-term deal because I want to be here."

Admittance of having "one more year here" isn't exactly going to help the cause of anyone who may still be arguing Sanders is being genuine in comments regarding wanting to stay in Pittsburgh. As far as being "wanted," there's a reason the Steelers selected Markus Wheaton in the third round of this draft, and added Justin Brown in the sixth.

It's an open competition. Wheaton may not be more productive than Sanders this year and Brown may not even make the team but none of them can miss the message here; the Steelers want depth at the position.

Let's be fair, though, the Steelers don't traditionally pay wide receivers very much. Antonio Brown's extension last season wasn't exactly breaking the bank at the position, and there have been exactly zero receivers between Hines Ward and Brown to get an extension.

Those who haven't include Plaxico Burress (who found his way back to the team only after two and a half years in jail and a stint with the Jets, which now may be nearly the same thing), Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington and, of course, Mr. Wallace.

This isn't meant to malign Sanders, a very talented receiver who needs only to stay on the field and perform in order to get paid next season. It's just a lesson in stacking one position with talent.

Young costs money. And the Steelers are looking for Cash Back now.


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