The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Eli Rogers / Shakim Phillips
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 1 Year / 0 Years
We will wrap up our exit meeting series in a bit of an unconventional way by highlighting two players in the same article—in this case, a pair of 2015 undrafted free agent wide receivers in Eli Rogers and Shakim Phillips.
Rogers was originally signed by the Steelers immediately following the draft, but Phillips was signed a short while later. Along with Tyler Murphy—who was actually Phillips’ teammate and quarterback at Boston College—the team had seemed to find a trio of young wide receivers among the undrafted crop with potential.
Murphy has signed with the Dolphins, but both Roger and Phillips remain, albeit via different paths. For Rogers, he spent the offseason drawing rave reviews for his spring work, and received valuable early reps with the first-team offense in training camp, but an injury landed him on injured reserve before anybody got to see him play.
Phillips had to work his way up the depth chart, however, but he did so by managing to make a couple of highlight-reel-worthy catches during the preseason, and it was enough to earn himself one of two wide receiver slots on the practice squad, Murphy occupying the other.
The reason that these two players can potentially be rather significant is, of course, because of the fact that Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant will spent the entirety of the 2016 season suspended, which means that there should be a roster spot open.
Pittsburgh returns only four wide receivers from last year’s roster, and they figure to carry at least five at minimum, I would expect. Even during Bryant’s four-game suspension last season, they carried Murphy initially as a fifth wide receiver, and he even caught a pass.
So unless the Steelers draft a relatively prominent wide receiver in the draft, one would have to think that one of Rogers or Phillips stands a fair chance of making the 53-man roster in 2016. They have even received a namedrop or two over the course of this offseason, which is never a bad sign.
Each of them have the potential to fill a different sort of role based on what needs the Steelers’ roster may have. Rogers is more of a quick and shifty slot receiver sort of player, while Phillips has a bit more size and vertical ability, based on their spring and summer exhibitions.