If the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for a boost at wide receiver as they head into the more challenging part of their schedule after the bye-week. the potential return of their third leading receiver from 2016 might be just what the offense is looking for.
Having already spent six weeks on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), Eli Rogers is officially eligible to return to full training and the Steelers now have six weeks to decide what they want to do with him. However, once Rogers returns to practice in this six-week window, Pittsburgh will only have 21-days to decide if they wanted to activate him to the full roster, release him or place him on injured reserve for the rest of the year.
Coming off an ACL injury, the Steelers would want to be sure Rogers was at least fully recovered from this knee issue before even thinking of letting him practice, but the receiver seemed confident he would be healthy enough to return when he last spoke to the media.
WR Eli Rogers (PUP list, knee) said his body and knee are in good enough condition that he will be ready to practice in 11 days when he's first eligible to. (He hasn't definitively been yet told by the Steelers, tho, that he will)— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) October 4, 2018
With most of the squad in good shape, the coaching staff may well look at Rogers as insurance they could bank on later in the year, but with Darrius Heyward-Bey having missed the last two games with an ankle injury, an opportunity might arise sooner than expected if his issue lingers.
Activating Rogers would require releasing another name from the 53-man roster, logically another receiver. With Justin Hunter the obvious candidate if Heyward-Bey’s injury is not expected to be long-term, Pittsburgh may be in no hurry to replace a player who has been inactive most weeks when the rest of the group is available.
That being said, Rogers is the only other wideout on the roster apart from Antonio Brown or JuJu Smith-Schuster to have recorded more than 19 total receptions in the NFL in the last two years and it may benefit the offense to swap him for Hunter as soon as they can. While Rogers only caught 18 passes for 149-yards in 2017, he did record 48 receptions for 594-yards in 2016. The most Hunter has ever caught in one season is 28 passes and his career total with the Steelers currently stands at five. Even if Rogers is more of a slot player and Hunter an outside receiver, one has clearly been more productive than the other.
Little else has been heard from Rogers or the team about their plans for him as of late, but this will be a situation to keep an eye on in the coming weeks for sure.