By Kim Dunning
In 2015, the Pittsburgh Steelers waived undrafted free agent rookie Eli Rogers due to a foot injury. This year the Steelers are nothing less than impressed with Rogers, who is coming back in training camp strong.
Rogers is a second year player coming back to training camp in hopes of gaining a roster spot with the Steelers. He played college football for the Louisville Cardinals. He attended Northwestern High School in Miami where he was teammates with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
So far, in the early days of Steelers training camp, Rogers has made a strong push to make the final 53-man roster. He has impressed at slot receiver, which is the position he excelled at during his time with Louisville. This is a position that the Steelers have been struggling to fill comfortably since the retirement of Hines Ward.
Coaches and players alike have nothing but good things to say about this kid. Word out of training camp is he is an excellent and consistent route runner, things he developed while playing at Louisville. The slot position is a difficult position to play in the NFL, but Rogers gained valuable experience in the slot in college so he is a natural fit to continue playing it in the NFL.
If he can continue to impress and make the final roster, this could potentially free up Markus Wheaton, who has been playing the slot, to play his strength position at outside wide receiver. With Martavis Bryant being suspended for the entire season, Wheaton will likely be moved to outside receiver leaving the slot position open for competition.
The competition for the fifth wide receiver on the team will likely come down to Rogers and the Steelers 7th round draft pick Demarcus Ayers. As it stands right now, this is Rogers’ battle to lose as he has already had reps with the second team offense as well as limited reps with the first team squad.
Rogers can also return punts, which is a huge asset to this Steelers team. As of last season, the Steelers were relying on veteran wide receiver Antonio Brown to return punts and kick-offs. If Rogers can make the final cut with Pittsburgh, he could relieve Brown of his return duties and save a potential injury to the number one receiver on the team.
The only drawback with Rogers is his foot injury. This is an injury that has plagued him since his college days. After being waived by the Steelers last season, he opted to have foot surgery in order to correct the problem. Hopefully, this surgery can help Rogers’ plaguing injury and propel him to a career with the Steelers.
Rogers will definitely be one player to keep an eye on when the Steelers take on the Detroit Lions in their first pre-season game on August 12. Watch for him to be on return duties and for him to be coming out of the slot. The wide receiver competition is going to heat up and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch!