Sanders move made out of desperation

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers were 8-8 last season. Their winning percentage in the offseason has been significantly lower.

The Steelers wound up the season as a mediocre, non-playoff team, and they’re not even as good as they were then.

They’ve lost players to free agency and salary cap concerns, and now they’ve been forced to spend more than they wanted to spend on receiver Emmanuel Sanders, just to maintain some semblance of depth at an important position.

The Steelers matched the New England Patriots’ offer sheet to Sanders because they had to. The prospect of entering the season with only Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress behind Antonio Brown was just too scary.

There may be help in the draft, but that comes with no guarantees. Besides, young receivers often need time to adjust to the NFL, where much more precision is required in running routes.

Losing Sanders from an offense that is already without a No. 1 running back would be too traumatic, especially when tight end Heath Miller will probably not be able to start the season after surgery.

Keeping Sanders puts the Steelers up against the cap at the moment, although they’ll get some added relief later.

Call for arms

It’s an understatement to say the Pirates could use some help in the rotation.

It looks as though James McDonald has some sort of injury issue. At this point, the Pirates almost hope there’s an explanation for the poor work McDonald turned in against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night.

Wandy Rodriguez was forced to miss a start with a hamstring injury, and that further weakened a starting staff that doesn’t have much beyond A.J. Burnett and Rodriguez.

Help will be on the way later, but for now it’s a struggle to consistently get six innings out of a starter. That puts too big a burden on the bullpen, and that takes a toll later. The Pirates are already using a shuttle between here and Indianapolis to try to stock the bullpen with fresh arms.

For all the focus that was on the weak offense through the first week of the season, starting pitching will be the biggest factor in determining how much success the Pirates can have.

Seeing double (at least)

It’s great to honor Jackie Robinson every year, but completely dumb to put Robinson’s No. 42 on every uniform on that day.

Numbers are there so players can be identified. Put a No. 42 patch on the sleeve of every uniform.

On Jackie Robinson Day, you can’t even tell the players with a scorecard. Confusion isn’t a good way to honor Robinson’s significant contribution to baseball and society.

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