The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Is a reunion with free agent wide receiver Eli Rogers a foregone conclusion?
The Steelers have three years invested in wide receiver Eli Rogers. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a foot injury that he suffered before even getting into a preseason game as an undrafted free agent. But the fact he was there in the first place showed how much they thought of him even then.
A combination of factors ultimately led to him opening the 2016 season as the team’s slot receiver, and he held that role for pretty much the entire season, but the drafting of JuJu Smith-Schuster (and the return of Martavis Bryant) saw him quickly fall out of favor in terms of receiving playing time last season.
While Rogers opened the year in the slot, Smith-Schuster rotated in heavily and took over shortly thereafter. The third-year veteran even found himself a healthy scratch for a couple of games. But even though he had some miscues and drops along the way, he also made some big plays and ultimately saw his role ever so slightly increase.
He had a pretty big role, comparatively speaking, in the team’s final game, the postseason loss. But he also tore his ACL. The fact that he was getting meaningful playing time (it’s worth noting that he also re-established himself as an option for punt returns) was significant, but the injury has made a reunion, at best, a delayed affair.
The Steelers have in the interim traded Bryant but spent another second-round pick at wide receiver in James Washington. Everybody else is returning from last season, including Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Marcus Tucker, and Justin Thomas, the latter two on the practice squad.
While the higher-ups have talked about possibly re-signing Rogers, it hasn’t happened yet, and until it does it’s not assured. Of course he’s also not healthy yet; in other words his not yet being on the roster is not in itself a bad sign. The question is this: when he is healthy, will he assuredly be brought back, on veteran-minimum terms?