Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver Eli Rogers will play in his first regular season NFL game Monday night against the Washington Redskins and after weeks and weeks of speculation as to how big of role he’ll have in the team’s offense this year, according to comments made by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Wednesday, it sounds like it could be quite extensive for the former undrafted free agent out of Louisville.
“It’s definitely different for Eli, especially, to get out there and play a big role in this offense,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday. “It will be new for him, but I think he’s up for the challenge and excited for it.”
Rogers, who spent his entire rookie season on the Steelers Reserve/Injured list because of a broken foot, figures to be the team’s starting slot wide receiver Monday night against the Redskins after manning that spot throughout the entire preseason. He will be looking to pick up right where he left off at Louisville where he averaged 44 catches, 505 yards and 3 touchdowns over the course of four seasons.
Roethlisberger has spoken very highly about Rogers over the course of the offseason and on into training camp and that praise for the young wide receiver continued on Wednesday during his talk with the media.
“He showed great toughness, great quickness and a desire to want to be great in a slot position,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s not easy to play around here. We ask that guy to do a lot of blocking, a lot of dirty and grimy work. And he doesn’t seem to shy away from it.”
While there will rightfully be quite a few eyes Monday night on the battle that will take place on the field between Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, Rogers could ultimately be the benefactor in that contest in the passing game and especially if he’s matched up against either Kendall Fuller or Dashaun Phillips, the two young Washington cornerbacks who have battling all offseason to be the team’s first-team nickel defender. Fuller is a rookie while Phillips is a second-year player who only appeared in 6 regular season games in 2015.
A nice performance Monday night against the Redskins by Rogers could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game and the playing time that he receives in that contest should make it much easier to predict how often and when he’ll be used on offense moving forward.
At this point, you really have to like Rogers’ chances of catching at least 40 passes in 2016 on the low side with his high side potentially being as many as 60. Should he be able to prove that he can be a reliable target for Roethlisberger in the slot, it should ultimately help open up the Steelers offense even more than it’s been in recent years and also help the team overcome the absences this season of both wide receiver Martavis Bryant and tight end Ladarius Green.