At this point, it seems likely that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have to make do at least for this week without the player who has become their primary slot wide receiver, second-year man Eli Rogers. Over the course of the first three games, he has caught nine passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, with several of those catches moving the sticks on third or fourth down.
While the Steelers are fortunate to be pretty deep at the wide receiver position and will no doubt get by without him for a game or two—they have on hand the same personnel that they did through the first five game of last season, after all—there is no doubt that Rogers was finding his place in the offense.
He had the key play on the team’s opening drive, which should have ended in a touchdown if not for a dropped pass, and then should have ended in a field goal if not for a block. But failing Rogers’ 32-yard catch on third and six on the Steelers’ 29-yard line on the third play of the game, they never would have been in that position to begin with.
The All-22 look provides the best insight into the play, so it is the angle that I will use, though I prefer to use another angle that provides a closer view when applicable. On this play, the Steelers used a stack formation with two wide receivers on the right side, with Rogers the outside and underneath man.
Both receivers dipped inside initially, but once Rogers was able to get even with the cornerback, he bent back outside toward the sideline as the other receiver drew off the deep safety, leaving him wide open for the reception and a bit of catch-and-run thereafter.
On the team’s second drive later in the first quarter, they looked to get the screen game going, again stacking receivers, this time with Rogers inside and on the line, with Antonio Brown right underneath him on the outside.
This also bunched up the defenders, with the near corner pressing Rogers and the far corner about five yards off of Brown. The near corner immediately engaged Rogers, who was able to seal him on the outside in order for Brown to slip to the sideline for a gain of 12 yards.
A few plays later, the Steelers looked to hit Rogers down the field, playing out of the left slot on a bit of a scramble drill, but could not make the connection. Nevertheless, this is a good example of his awareness to work back to the ball as he saw his quarterback flushed out to his left.
Rogers’ last play came early in the second half, when he was targeted on consecutive passes, the first one defended well by the trailing defender. The second likely should have been a reception, but he went down on the play with a toe injury, and almost resulted in an interception. In reality, he probably should have bent his route inside even sooner.
Rogers had another reception in the game, but it went for no yards on a play that was read well by the safety, who came up to tackle the catch. But overall, watching him away from the ball, it’s obvious why they like him in this role, and I’m sure he will find his way back there when he gets back.