The 2017 season was a seesaw ride for wide receiver Eli Rogers. His playing time ebbed and flowed throughout the season, and seemed to be on the rise by the end of the year. He received a good amount of playing time in the playoff loss, only to tear his ACL.
Were it not for that, the Pittsburgh Steelers likely would have re-signed him, perhaps even giving him a restricted free agent tender. With his reduced role and the fact that he was rehabbing from a major injury, however, plans for a reunion were at least delayed.
Now that he is healthy enough since his January knee injury, however, he appears to be exploring other options. We already reported that he has a workout scheduled for tomorrow with the Kansas City Chiefs. According to Pro Football Talk, he also he workouts lined up for the coming week with the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns.
Per source WR Eli Rogers also will work out for the Browns and Raiders this week.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 21, 2018
Playing in the AFC North, Rogers would obviously be familiar with Cleveland, and vice versa. He would also be familiar with the offense, with Todd Haley now their coordinator. In Oakland, he would reunite with Martavis Bryant, also entering his fourth season in the league, who was traded to the Raiders for a third-round pick during the 2018 NFL Draft.
With three workouts scheduled for next week, just as training camps are set to open up around the league, it’s easy to begin wondering how the Steelers might fit in to the plans. Head Coach Mike Tomlin has previously expressed optimism about bringing him back, but these visits almost give the appearance that he has been told that he is not in the team’s plans.
Rogers was the team’s primary slot receiver during his second season in 2016 (having spent his rookie season on injured reserve), but that role changed dramatically last year with the return of Bryant from suspension and the drafting and quick maturation of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster.
While Bryant is gone, the Steelers added another young wide receiver through the draft in James Washington whom they anticipate will play right away, so Rogers would once again be looking at a number four role in the best-case scenario.
Perhaps he is looking for locations that might give him a better opportunity to fight for the slot role, though I’m not certain either of the Raiders or the Browns would be the ideal option for him. The Browns, for example, still have Corey Coleman, and are high on rookie Antonio Callaway.
Rogers’ first season on the field for the Steelers was an underrated success, catching 48 passes for 594 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games. He had a consistent role at that time, however, and he struggled to perform on a down-to-down basis last season when his playing time became more sporadic.
One area in which he could contribute to a team is as a punt returner. He had success in that role late last season after Antonio Brown was injured. We will probably find out relatively soon if the door in Pittsburgh is still open for him.