Though Eli Rogers is no Antonio Brown, the standard is still the standard. And Danny Smith just put him on notice. Speaking with Bob Labriola on this week’s Coordinator’s Corner, Smith said Rogers must improve to be the team’s punt returner.
“He’s got to do a much better job,” Smith told Labriola. “I got to do a better job coaching him, he’s got to do a better job with decision-making. It’s quite obvious.”
Smith, speaking with the media for the first time since the season began, talked about why the team made the change to go from Brown to Rogers.
“It’s just another opportunity for another guy…it’s just a matter of the workload that everyone takes. We have a 53 man roster, we’re dressing 46 for a particular game. And 46 guys have gotta play. And everyone has to have a role. We’re trying to make that role for another guy. It’s not a promotion, a demotion, in any way, shape, or form.”
You know I’m pro-Danny Smith but this is a weaksauce explanation if I’ve ever seen one. In Pittsburgh, it’s always been about who is the best and most capable player. Not giving it to a player just so he has something to do. That’s the equivalent of a teacher handing out “busy work” for the class. Not productive.
Of course, Smith may not be making those decisions. It wasn’t his choice to make Jacoby Jones the starting return man in 2015. Smith agreed with Antonio Brown that he should’ve remained the guy.
Here’s what Smith said when Brown expressed frustration at being taken off punts.
“‘AB, I don’t like it either, but that’s what we’re going to do.’ And it didn’t work and we went back to AB.”
Jones ended in disaster and while Rogers has spent more time with the team, and his performance remains to be seen, made a disastrous play against the Bears, fumbling away a punt. Chicago wound up scoring on that drive. If those struggles continue, the team will land back on Brown, where they probably should’ve been in the first place.
Smith was not asked if Rogers will remain in that role this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, though we can presume that he will be given a second chance. Through three games, Rogers has returned eight punts for an average of 5.8 yards.
Despite always erring on the side of caution, Antonio Brown averaged at least nine yards per punt in each of the last four seasons.