The Pittsburgh Steelers lost one wide receiver for the season a week ago after Justin Hunter suffered a torn labrum, leaving them with five on the 53-man roster, including Darrius Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey is scarcely used on offense and is primarily featured as a top performer on a number of special teams units.
It’s possible that they could be getting one receiver back this week, however, if Head Coach Mike Tomlin chooses to activate Eli Rogers from the Physically Unable to Perform List. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner confirmed that the fourth-year player is healthy after practicing for a few weeks now and that he has gotten some work with Ben Roethlisberger and the first-team offense.
While the Steelers are obviously set at the top two spots at wide receiver with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, both of whom have at least 85 receptions for 1000 yards and six touchdowns, the number three receiver is a spot that has been open for most of the year, currently being split by Ryan Switzer and rookie James Washington.
It’s worth noting that Fichtner has been taking the opportunity for a couple of weeks now to go out of his way to namedrop Rogers after he returned to practice, bringing up his name when he has been asked about other wide receivers such as Switzer and Washington.
The offensive coordinator called him “an established inside-type receiver” who has “played a lot of football. So there is a lot of experience and a lot of quickness and inside stuff he’s capable of bringing to you”.
Switzer is also an inside-type receiver who brings a lot of quickness and inside stuff, but he is certainly less experienced than is Rogers. Rogers has 66 receptions in his career for 743 yards and four touchdowns. Switzer has 36 receptions to his name for 265 yards and one touchdown.
Rogers lost favor last season while the team still had Martavis Bryant, who would play on the outside. With Brown on the other side, Smith-Schuster quickly emerged as a top threat out of the slot, which left the former undrafted free agent with nowhere to really go.
Following some late-season benchings and injuries, however, Rogers did start to see more playing time, and in the Steelers’ postseason loss caught five passes for 42 yards before he suffered a torn ACL.
Likely in large part due to the injury, the team chose not to give him a restricted free agent tender. Knowing that he was still recovering, they did sign him just before training camp, and he has been on the PUP List since then, though apparently is healthy enough to be activated at this point.