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Let’s say the Steelers matched and kept him for 2013. It would mean they’d want to keep him long-term as well. They can then try to negotiate a multiple-year contract with Sanders. But what if he pulls a Mike Wallace and no matter what they offer, he rejects?
In essence, they would go through another season with a lame-duck starter at wide receiver, and they will have thrown away the chance to acquire a third-round pick for him.
Also, while they do have room under the salary cap to cover that $2.5 million -- they need, remember, only about $1.2 million more over what they already are committed to him -- it would bring them within about $700,000 of their cap limit. They will clear $5.5 million more in cap space in June because of their release of Willie Colon, but they will need much of that to sign their rookie draft picks.
Matching the Sanders deal might preclude them from signing, say, Ahmad Bradshaw. Or it might force them to restructure a contract they did not want to restructure, that of Troy Polamalu.