There are not a lot of meaningful conclusions that you can reach about a player after the end of his first season, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from talking about it. You can find just about any variety of analysis that you would care to read if you just look for it, complete with bold letter grades.
I’m not going to do that. But I am going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’s 2015 NFL Draft class, both collectively, in this article, as was as individually, in succeeding articles.
While the tides have slowly turned in Pittsburgh regarding rookie players being held back in terms of playing time in recent years, the 2015 class outside of their first-round pick did not get a lot of burn during the year, but that shouldn’t be terribly surprising in hindsight.
The Steelers entered the draft process this year with eight draft picks, including the seven natural draft picks in each round, in addition to a compensatory draft pick in the sixth round, in addition to some notable undrafted free agent acquisitions.
Player: Eli Rogers
Draft Status: Undrafted
While the Pittsburgh Steelers, as they always do, brought a number of undrafted free agents with them to camp, only one of them managed to make the 53-man roster, although that player in question spent just four games on the roster, and was not retained this offseason.
Two other undrafted free agents spent time on the practice squad, but another player, Eli Rogers, was perhaps the Steelers’ best bet to find a player who could contribute from their pool of rookie undrafted free agent signings—and he barely even made it into training camp.
The 5’10”, 187-pound receiver was signed by the Steelers immediately following the draft, and from that point on he managed to create enough of a buzz around himself that it actually got people excited, a group of people that included beat writers, coaches, and even his teammates.
By the time training camp rolled around, there was enough talk around him that it seemed like he potentially had a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster. In the early part of camp, with some of the more veteran wide receivers sitting out certain activities, it was Rogers who moved over and worked with the first-team offense, receiving passes from a franchise quarterback, which is a rare treat for a player of his stature.
Rogers was receiving looks ahead of third-round rookie Sammie Coates and Tyler Murphy, who would go on to make the roster, as well as everybody else not within that top four group of players. Given that Murphy made the roster, it stands to reason that that roster spot could have gone to Rogers.
But the rookie suffered a foot injury from which he is still in the process of recovering. While he was waived injured at that time, he cleared waivers and the team kept him on injured reserve throughout the year, and is set to come back to camp next year, with another chance to make the roster.