Yesterday was a good one for Pittsburgh Steelers third-year wide receiver Eli Rogers, who led all receivers with five receptions. His 58 yards were only two behind the Colts’ leading receiver, but Rogers did it in small chunks coming out of the slot. He caught five of his six targets, and the one that he didn’t was a high pass, although it did go off the tips of his hands.
Despite the fact that the team has brought in quite a lot of competition at the wide receiver group as a whole, for the moment at least, it still appears as though the former undrafted free agent out of Louisville is set to open up the regular season as the Steelers’ starting slot receiver, and he showed why last night.
He has a knack for getting open, which makes it no surprise why he got the number of targets in the passing game that he did. Ben Roethlisberger targeted him twice, on the second drive of the game, connecting with him on passes of 12 and 15 yards, both converting on first down, the latter first and 15.
All of his other targets came late in the second quarter during the four-minute offense with Landry Jones at quarterback. The first pass that came his way was a crucial one on third and four, and he was able to get open for Jones on a 10-yard hookup.
The pair failed to duplicate that success on the next play, one on which it appears that the quarterback’s pass was too high for the short wide receiver to grab. As mentioned above, he ricocheted off his hands, though thankfully it landed safely on the grass without being turned over.
Jones went back to the well two more times, finding Rogers for 14 and seven yards, both on second down, the former converting, the latter setting up a third and short. Jones’ third-down pass, however, was a low-probability incompletion, and they had to setting for a field goal at the end of the half instead of a touchdown.
What is interesting is that the Steelers have not given him any work in the punt return game since the first preseason game. Chances are he won’t get any in the preseason finale, either, in part as they explore the option of somebody like Trey Williams seizing a return job.
Despite the presence of the likes of Martavis Bryant, Justin Hunter, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Sammie Coates, however, it certainly appears as though there is no immediate end in sight to Rogers’ significant contributions to the offensive side of the ball. After all, Roethlisberger likes throwing to him.