In spite of the fact that he was an undrafted rookie, the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered an unfortunate loss recently when wide receiver Eli Rogers suffered a foot injury that evidently required an operation to repair.
The Steelers determined that he would be significantly behind the moving train, so to speak, by the time he would be able to return, and chose to waive him injured, replacing him with another slight receiver, Kenzel Doe, who is healthy and already contributing.
Having already been given some solid press during the spring for his work in OTAs and minicamp, Rogers opened some eyes during the first week of training camp, enough to get himself reps with the first-team group of receivers, whose passes are thrown by Ben Roethlisberger. With some of the top players sitting out, he was even receiving a significant number of reps and doing well when the injury occurred.
He was unable to even make it to the first preseason game, but he seems to have convinced many observers that he has the talent to contribute in this league. Perhaps he eventually catches on with somebody else. He may even wind up back with the Steelers at some point down the line.
In the interim, however, Rogers’ absence does have some ripple effects on how the wide receivers will be used in training camp and the preseason, and on the impending battle for roster spots that will be heating up once the games start.
For starters, the removal of Rogers from the equation gives Sammie Coates one less player logging reps ahead of him. He figures to get more consistent playing time with the starting group of wide receivers now, particularly with some members of that group currently sidelined.
While Coates is in no jeopardy to miss the roster as a rookie third-round draft pick, it does increase the odds of first-year former undrafted free agent C.J. Goodwin making the 53. It has to be noted that the Steelers kept six receivers last year, plus another two on the practice squad.
Goodwin was one of those two, and he stayed there the entire season in spite of the fact that he never participated in a preseason game. This year, he has had more consistent opportunities to show off his impressive vertical and his willingness to battle for the ball in traffic.
He has gotten the chance to jump up to working with the first-team group of wide receivers, working in the slot with the starters as the unit battles injuries. It will be interesting to actually get to watch him compete in games this year, which is an opportunity that alluded him during his rookie year.
With Rogers out of the picture, however, I think that this reduces the likelihood that the Steelers stack the practice squad with wide receivers. Entering the regular season, the team had six on the 53-man roster and another two on the practice squad. Were I to guess right now, I would think that they go with five on the 53-man roster and just one on the practice squad.