Steelers’ fans have known about Eli Rogers throughout the season. It has been a bit of a bumpy ride, there was the deactivation at mid-season and games where he was rarely targeted, but his success wasn’t – or shouldn’t have been – a shock to any fan.
But on a national stage? Which it was to the highest degree, a record number of people tuning in to NFL Network to watch. They now know who Rogers is.
That’s the challenge Mike Tomlin gave Rogers leading into this week. To rise to the moment in easily the biggest game of his young football career. That’s what he relayed to Bob Labriola in one of my favorite’s interviews of the week, his weekend sitdown with the Steelers’ head coach.
“I was just telling Eli the other day that I remembered back in 2010 there was an unknown guy running down the sideline against the Baltimore Ravens with a ball stuck to his head,” Tomlin said. “That weekend all the football world discovered who was. Maybe this is Eli’s weekend.”
It was Brown who made the final, and biggest, play but Rogers came up huge throughout the game, including that drive. His diving grab over the middle that put the Steelers in the red zone before finishing off the drive a few plays later.
It’s those moments Tomlin embraces.
“That’s what I like about this time of year. That’s what these big games and these moments present to people, and if their readiness and mentality are aligned, they have an opportunity to really burst onto an international scene from a professional sports standpoint.”
It’s also a bit of a personal redemption for Rogers. That catch he made made me distinctly related to the missed opportunity he made at the end of the Steelers’ losing streak, dropping a contested catch at the end of the first half against the Dallas Cowboys. It was a difficult play, there is zero doubt about that, but one Todd Haley seemed to imply at the time he needed to make.
“We missed opportunities…the final drive of the half we had a chance to catch a ball down the middle,” Haley said at the time. “Eli Rogers, you know if you hold on, you’re probably guaranteed points…”
This time, Rogers came through. He finished the play and led to a drive that ended in points. The biggest ones of the season.