Roethlisberger puts Tomlin, Steelers on the spot over Sanders


A little gamesmanship on the part of Mike Tomlin may end up causing the Pittsburgh Steelers some real internal problems.

The Steelers must decide by midnight on Sunday whether to retain the services of restricted wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was signed to an offer sheet by the New England Patriots this past week.  Should they decide to let Sanders walk, the team would then take control of the Patriots 3rd round pick in the NFL draft in less than two weeks.

Dec 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) scrambles against the Cleveland Browns during the second half of the game at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

These situations always seem to have no direction, but this one has taken on a life of it’s own, as the fate of the entire franchise is now involved.

Steelers head coach Tomlin waited out Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick’s decision on whether to sign the 26 year old Sanders an offer sheet, which left the Steelers free agency and draft status in limbo, so it’s almost certain that Tomlin made up his mind weeks ago as to what he would do if Belichick did sign the speedster to the offer…

…and now he’s making Belichcik wait until the last possible moment to know what his response will be – but in taking part in the gamesmanship with Belichick, Tomlin left himself open for both scrutiny and divisiveness, as now quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown a wrench into the works.

According to various reports, Roethlisberger has been “lobbying” the Steelers to match the Patriots’ offer for Sanders, which makes a situation that really wasn’t such a huge deal in the grand scheme of things into a potential internal time bomb for Pittsburgh.

Now, instead of the question being do the Steelers match the offer and have Sanders start opposite Antonio Brown or take the 91st pick in the draft, it has become a question of how much the Steelers respect the feelings and word of their franchise signal caller.

In other words, now it’s all about Big Ben.

Selfishness has always been Roethlisberger’s calling card, but there’s no need to go into his various off-field issues, which are well documented.  On the field he is as frustrating to the opposition as he has been to his employers off it…

…and now he’s just put them in a position to have to not just decide on whether to retain Sanders, but whether to show support to their franchise quarterback by bringing Sanders back for one more season, creating a potential public relations nightmare between the team and their two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Roethlisberger has forced the Steelers’ hand, and by midnight on Sunday we’ll see just how much they value his opinion.