The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: How will wide receiver Eli Rogers respond to his benching?
Although we don’t have complete clarity as to why second-year wide receiver Eli Rogers was benched on Sunday against the Patriots, during which he dressed—by necessity due to the number of injuries they had—but did not see a snap, we do have enough information to go on to have reason to believe that his lack of playing time was a disciplinary measure of some kind.
The Steelers chose not to use him in spite of the fact that they intended to have him in the game plan to test the Patriots’ defense over the middle, and, in fact, they really needed him, considering that there were points of the game in which they only had two healthy wide receivers operating.
Rogers has already missed some time with a foot injury, and in fact was only a game into his return before he was forced to take a seat on Sunday. In the previous week, he saw a high number of targets, ultimately coming away with four receptions for 35 yards, but he had a big drop late in the game.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made a remark during his recent radio appearance suggesting that Rogers needs to “stay focused”, hinting at either a preparation issue or an internal accountability measure, but one can’t help but wonder if it was more of the former after his most recent target was an important drop.
Perhaps he had a bad week of practice, and Mike Tomlin sat him down because of it. He would not be the first important young player that Tomlin has benched because of his poor week of practice leading up to it, and history has shown that they usually respond well to such coaching tactics.
I suspect this is the situation that Rogers finds himself in, and he is being asked to step up to the plate and prove his coaches wrong, to prove that he can be a professional day in and day out and to make things happen on Sunday through what he does over the course of the week. He has extra time now before he has another chance at cracking the field.