Things have not exactly gone as great as they possibly can for Eli Rogers over the course of the past year and a half. During that timespan, he went from being an emerging starter from the slot receiver position to a marginal and injured player on the roster bubble who has resurfaced disciplinary concerns.
As you know by now, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fourth-year wide receiver received a one-game suspension for violating the league’s policy for substances of abuse. The likelihood is that he will still be on the Physically Unable to Perform list by that point, where he has been since he was re-signed at the start of training camp, but he will still miss a week of pay and time around the team.
One does have to wonder where this leaves him in the team’s standings, and how much, if at all, it increases the likelihood that he is eventually released, depending upon how things develop at the wide receiver position.
For the moment, at least, it does appear as though his services can still be utilized, once healthy. While he would have a tough task in finding playing time for himself behind Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and rookie James Washington, there is nobody behind them that is indispensable or necessarily reliable. If he were healthy, he would be the ‘next man up’, as he was last year.
But the Steelers also toyed with Justin Hunter in that role last year and seem to be even higher on him going into the 2018 season, and there is some excitement about rookie college free agent Damoun Patterson, who if he has a big preseason finale after the next game could potentially push for a roster spot. Then there is Marcus Tucker, who is showing his worth on special teams.
Just because Rogers was re-signed doesn’t mean that he was guaranteed anything. In a reduced role, if he gives the team reason to question his level of discipline, that could really jeopardize his standing. As a second-year player, he was benched for a game for off-field reasons. After he lost his job to Smith-Schuster a year ago, he struggled to find his footing and gave inconsistent performances when he did get on the field, as though he lacked focus.
Those are things that you will tolerate from a regular contributor, but if Rogers is not going to be that, then it’s going to be another obstacle in his path as he tries to get back on the field. Personally, I do believe that he is the fourth-best wide receiver on the team and can help them once he gets fully healthy.