The Pittsburgh Steelers foiled the Patriots’ recent bid to make an upgrade at wide receiver, matching the Pats’ offer sheet yesterday to retain restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders.

The Patriots’ $2.5 million offer seemed modest Wednesday, and that ultimately proved to be the case when the Steelers answered it six hours before the deadline. While the Steelers are hurting for salary cap room, they still had enough space to pay the additional $1.2 million after already figuring his $1.3 million tender into the equation. They had $1.9 million in cap space when Sanders accepted the Pats’ offer sheet.

The Patriots can look at this development a few ways. Their offer obviously wasn’t enough to get it done, but they identified their value for a player who had career highs last season with 44 catches and 626 yards. If they believed they should have been desperate to nab Sanders, they’ll be second-guessing themselves this season.

And for what it’s worth, the Patriots forced the Steelers to spend additional money, so a conference rival will have to restructure somewhere else or make an undesirable roster cut.

The Pats also keep the third-round pick that they would have sent to the Steelers if they landed Sanders, and it would seem to be a certainty that they’ll attempt to upgrade their wide receivers in next week’s draft. Based on their courtship of Sanders, they know it’s a position that needs work.