The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: How big of a role will Eli Rogers play with Antonio Brown out?
Despite what many would like to think, it’s not necessarily a simple thing to accommodate injuries in the middle of a game. We see this every year on every team, enough that one might think it would be understood that you can’t always easily make a one-for-one change for a major injury that occurs in the middle of a game.
That is perhaps most significant when we are talking about wide receiver, who have a more diverse set of assignments than anybody else. People were outraged over how many snaps Darrius Heyward-Bey played, but he is the player who runs with the second-team unit in Brown’s spot. Martavis Bryant did not, until this past week, as he is practicing there now.
That is the difference between an in-game change and a change a game later. When Ryan Shazier and Tyler Matakevich were injured, L.J. Fort played the rest of the game. The next game, Arthur Moats played some and Fort hardly at all. Several years ago, after I think Cortez Allen was injured, Antwon Blake replaced him mid-game, but Brice McCain was the one trained to replace him for the next game.
The point is, what you see by the end of a game in which an injury occurs is typically not the same thing you’re going to see in the next game, in many cases. The offensive and defensive lines are less subject to this, but even that goes through the process.
And that finally brings me back to my question. Eli Rogers didn’t play a whole lot even though Antonio Brown missed most of the game. But he played bigger roles in the games Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster missed. So how much playing time will he get in Brown’s absence?