After losing their top wide receiver in free agency this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t about to let Emmanuel Sanders also depart, as they chose to match the New England Patriots 1-year, $2.5 million offer sheet yesterday. Even though it would have been nice to see Pitt lose tow starting receivers in the same offseason, this move ultimately could benefit the Bengals if they fail to draft a running back in the NFL Draft.
Free agent RB Ahmad Bradshaw remains on the open market due to his rehab from foot surgery. He has already visited with the Steelers, and it is believed that if Bradshaw’s foot healed properly, Pittsburgh would eventually make him a contract offer. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports the Steelers plan to meet with Bradshaw again before the NFL Draft, and they may feel more pressured to sign him sooner rather than later now that competition for his services is rising.
Then came a report last week that the Bengals were also interested in Bradshaw, and that a visit could take place within the next week or two. The Steelers may not have the cap-space to sign Bradshaw now that they’ve matched the Patriots’ $2.5 million offer sheet for Sanders. Prior to the match, Pittsburgh was $2 million under the salary cap, and they are now right at the salary cap line.
This, while still needing to sign their draft picks, as well as keeping a small emergency cash stash to sign players during training camp and the season in case a significant amount of injuries arise.
It may be safe to say they’re out of the Bradshaw sweepstakes, and if the Bengals ultimately decide to pursue him, that’s one less team they’ll have to outbid for his services.