The team has until Monday to make a final decision with a five-day window to match the $2.5 million offer sheet to the wide receiver, who is a restricted free agent. It ultimately will be an ownership call in all likelihood, the sources said. The Steelers can afford the cap hit but must decide whether it is better to take a third-round pick for a player whom they could lose for only a low compensatory pick in 2014 if he departs as an unrestricted free agent.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been lobbying the coaches hard, sources said, pushing for Sanders to be retained after already losing Mike Wallace in free agency. Roethlisberger has called head coach Mike Tomlin several times, sources also said.
At this point, the final decision remains up in the air.