Perhaps we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves in writing Eli Rogers’ epitaph, but it seems to me that all the signs are point toward the third-year wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers finding himself on the bench this week, and perhaps for the foreseeable future depending on how things go.
It’s quite possible that I end up shooting wide of the target here, and that Rogers dresses on Sunday and resumes business as usual, but when you combine his reduction in playing time Sunday with his seeing zero targets and add it to the recent report that the Steelers are going to stick Antonio Brown back on punt return duties—and the report that Justin Hunter is going to dress—it all adds up to him not playing.
After all, what would they need him for, at that point? He won’t be returning kicks, and JuJu Smith-Schuster already took over the preponderance of the third-receiver snaps. Rogers only saw about 20 or so snaps on Sunday, and those snaps, if even available, could go to Hunter now.
So how did this end up happening? It’s not as though he has done anything wrong—on offense at least. The muffed punt certainly hurt him. He caught four passes for 43 yards against the Vikings, and I believe that included a couple of smooth third-down conversions, as has been the norm for him.
One thing that has always struck me as odd is that, in spite of the rapport that he seems at times to have with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, there is still a disproportionate frequency of occurrences on which the two of them are not on the same page, and this tends to lead to some ugly incompletions. We have seen this on virtually a weekly basis.
It reminds me of the relationship that Roethlisberger once had with Markus Wheaton, particularly in his second season. In both cases, they would frequently disappear from games without seeing targets despite logging a heavy number of snaps.
And when they were targeted, a fair share of those targets would appear misplaced because the quarterback and the wide receiver were not in sync on what the route was meant to be. Generally, I would tend to think that Roethlisberger would be right here.
I like Rogers, and he has some coveted traits that make him an asset to this team. But I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t intrigued by the potential of Hunter becoming the fourth wide receiver, something that would be impossible with Rogers serving as the punt returner and thus requiring a helmet.
Having both Hunter and Smith-Schuster gives the Steelers two big-bodied wide receivers who are versed in lining up in the slot, where they can create mismatches. And at the very least, Roethlisberger and the former Titans wide receiver did seem to have some chemistry during training camp, though they did not play together during the preseason.
Author’s Note: In the event that Rogers dresses, rendering this article obsolete, please burn.