The Pittsburgh Steelers enter this week with a wide receiver they don’t really bother playing on offense, another who has been a semi-healthy scratch for two of the past three weeks due to struggles to catch the football with a busted finger, and a second-year player with a shoulder injury that has him questionable to play on Sunday.
They also have a perfectly good wide receiver that is very familiar with their system sitting on the street who can come in and be an immediate contributor. And while he did not sign, said player just had a workout with the Baltimore Ravens, who recently signed former Steelers inside linebacker L.J. Fort.
WR Sean Modster (who signed with practice squad)
WR/PR Tommylee Lewis
RB/PR Marcus Murphy
WR/PR Eli Rogers
P/K Ryan Santoso
DE Jihad Ward
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) October 7, 2019
I’m talking about fifth-year wide receiver Eli Rogers, of course. Rogers failed to make the 53-man roster this year for the first time in his career (barring his rookie season in which he was on the Reserve/Injured List), and while he has had a couple of workouts since then, he has yet to hook on with a team. The Steelers chose instead to go with the likes of Ryan Switzer and, ultimately, Johnny Holton, whose biggest contributions has been a defensive pass interference penalty drawn so far.
Add on top of all this the fact that JuJu Smith-Schuster is dealing with a toe injury that he has had since the season opener and the apparent reality that the team seems close to sold on the idea of Donte Moncrief not being a contributor (still vulnerably to being released with an eye toward preserving a potential third-round compensatory pick next year), plus the clear growing pains evident in Diontae Johnson, and this wide receiver unit could sure use somebody like Rogers right about now.
At the moment, Switzer and Holton are alternating bad return attempts while contributing little if at all one offense. Washington has gotten his snaps, but continues to be sparsely targeted when he is on the field. Johnson makes some plays, but remains raw. He can create separation but it still finding himself within the broader scheme of the offense, and within individual plays.
Meanwhile, Rogers remains available while teams like the Ravens—who have little at the position they’re currently willing to use outside of first-round rookie Marquise Brown, and occasionally Willie Snead—are exploring him as an option.
It’s still difficult to see, especially in hindsight, the logic behind the decision to keep Rogers off the roster, especially, for example, if they have a mind toward letting Moncrief go, with broader draft considerations in mind.
He is the one player that they can add to the wide receiver position right now who can be an immediate contributor without having to do any on-the-fly learning. He’s ready and eager to go. And he keeps getting checked out by other teams.