Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver Eli Rogers has already missed a lot of time this season—in fact, roughly half of the year, considering that he went down with an injury in the third quarter of their third game of five games played—but he is expected to slide back into his usual role, primarily in the slot, tomorrow after working his way back from a toe injury.
What that also means is that we can probably anticipate that Rogers will see his fair share of targets over the course of the game, as he was second only to, of course, Antonio Brown in terms of usage rate on passing plays leading up to his injury, though Sammie Coates has really taken advantage of his absence.
Over the course of the first three games, Rogers played 71 snaps on passing downs on which a pass was thrown. He was the target on 15 of those pass attempts, working out to a usage rate of 21.1 percent. Over the course of the season, Brown has been targeted over 30 percent of the time when he has been on the field (191 pass attempts with 59 targets), but even he received a bit of a bump.
Coates has unquestionably been the greatest benefactor of Rogers’ absence. Prior to Rogers’ injury, he played roughly 60 snaps on pass attempts and was targeted 10 times, which equates to a usage rate of 16.6, which is not much higher than Markus Wheaton’s season mark of 15.5 percent.
But since Rogers has gone down, Coates’ usage has skyrocketed. He has played not much more than he did prior to the injury—less than 70 snaps on pass attempts—but he has seen twice as many pass attempts post-injury. On the season, he has now been targeted 24.4 percent of the time, but over 31 percent of the time with Rogers sidelined.
Granted, no doubt part of that has to do with the second-year wide receiver’s own honest to goodness improvement, which justifies the greater number of targets, but to nearly double the frequency at which a player is targeted obviously strongly correlates with an exterior factor at play, and that obvious factors is Rogers’ injury.
Coates is ailing now with a hand injury, even though he expects to play, but I would expect Rogers to get a good number of looks in the passing game, perhaps eight or so targets, give or take, provided that the coaching staff feels comfortable enough in his level of preparedness to introduce him to his customary allotment of snaps.
The fact that Wheaton is out and Coates is ailing is only going to inflate his usage, I would imagine. He left off the year with nine receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. It wouldn’t be a total shock if he puts up numbers similar to his season-to-date stat line tomorrow against a dubious Miami secondary.