With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Eli Rogers.
Second-year wide receiver Eli Rogers has been talked about as much as you can, seemingly, or at least pretty close to it, for a player who has yet to even take a snap in a preseason game. But he does have a pair of Steelers shorts, as one entertaining coach put it, and so the interest will persist until it proves either valid or invalid.
Following an injury suffered early in training camp, Rogers found himself sidelined for all of last year. He landed on injured reserve, and remained there the entire season, with the team never working out an injury settlement for him, which means that not only kept his current contract, he is also regarded as a second-year player.
The 5’10”, 187-pound wide receiver has been receiving the praise of his teammates and coaches for two offseasons now, however, and that is only continuing to fuel the excitement to finally get a good look at him in a couple months when players from different teams finally start running into each other.
A small, shifty player with strong route running and the ability to separate to make catches—or at least that has been reported during training camp and spring practices—Rogers would seem on paper to be an ideal candidate to move into the slot.
Aside from the fact that we haven’t actually seen what he looks like in a game, of course, however, we have actually yet to even see him in pads, unless I am mistaken at that point, as I believe his injury in training camp occurred even before they put the full pads on for the first time.
It’s a lot easier for a wide receiver to look impressive in shorts than it is for a lot of other positions, so passing the padded test is the first step to determining whether or not he actually has the talent to make the 53-man roster.
One talent that could help him make the 53-man roster is earning his keep on special teams as a return man. The Steelers are looking for a kick returner even if they’re not talking about it, and evidently they’re looking for a punt returner, too, having drafted one. There is an open roster spot at the end of the wide receiver depth chart, but he is only one of several trying to seize it, even if he might be the most popular.