Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers has officially been able to practice since last week. The fourth-year player has been on the Physically Unable to Perform List, and players on that list are ineligible to participate in practice during the first six weeks of the regular season.
So far, there have been no indications that there is any plan for that to change.
As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review confirmed yesterday, Rogers told the paper that he and rookie Olasunkanmi Adeniyi only worked on an auxiliary field where injured players—such as Morgan Burnett—do light, non-football work.
The former undrafted free agent suffered a torn ACL in early January. The Steelers chose not to offer him a restricted free agent tender, but ultimately re-signed him on the eve of training camp, believing that he was far enough along in his rehab that it would make sense to bring him on board.
Rogers previously said that he believed he would be healthy enough to practice when he was eligible to do so. That he did not practice yet does not mean that he is not healthy enough to do so, however. It has to be at the team’s discretion when, or if, he participates officially in a team practice for the first time.
Doing so initiates a three-week window during which he is eligible to practice, but after which a decision must be made about his status. He must either be activated to the 53-man roster, placed on injured reserve, or otherwise be released. Alternatively, he could spend the entire year on the PUP List, as Mike Adams did in 2015.
It is an interesting discussion considering that the Steelers have no clear number three wide receiver at the moment. The plan is obviously for James Washington, the second-round rookie, to take that job, but he so far has just five catches for under 50 yards and saw his playing time diminish heading into the bye week.
Then there is Ryan Switzer, who was brought in primarily to be the team’s return man. That guarantees himself a roster spot, but he has also had some limited participation on offense, even if it seems to be dwindling a bit in recent weeks.
Justin Hunter received a good amount of playing time in the final game before the break, despite not registering a reception on one target, but the problem is that he is normally not even dressed on a healthy roster. He dressed for the past two games only because Darrius Heyward-Bey, almost exclusively a special teams player but a very good one, had been injured.
Hunter would be the likely player to be released in order to bring Rogers onto the roster, but he would still struggle to dress as long as they push Washington. They did carry seven cornerbacks at the end of last season, so it’s not impossible, but even that move was prompted by a Joe Haden injury.