The Pittsburgh Steelers know how to select wide receivers. Their draft picks have traditionally been steady contributors for the team, but with Martavis Bryant being suspended for the entire 2016 season, the deepest position on the Steelers roster will certainly be tested in the coming season.
Fans and experts alike point to Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates picking up the slack in the absence of Bryant, but when GM Kevin Colbert spoke to reporters before the owners meetings in Florida recently, he spoke about another player who could help the team compensate for life without Bryant.
"We feel good about Sammie Coates," Colbert told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "And we have a kid, Eli Rogers, who, prior to getting hurt in training camp, showed some promise."
The fact Colbert even mentioned Rogers should excite the second year undrafted free agent, and entice him to work harder than he ever has in preparations for the upcoming season. Shakim Phillips is another player still in the Steelers organization who could help ease the pain of Bryant's absence if he is able to impress in Spring workouts and training camp, but Rogers brings another aspect to the roster that most don't -- return man capabilities.
Rogers was a punt and kick returner in college for Louisville and could not only fill the team's 5th wide receiver role, but could also be the team's primary punt and kick returner. The Steelers have been looking for a replacement to Antonio Brown on punt return duties, in fear of losing the two-time MVP to an unnecessary injury on special teams. Rogers could fill such a void in Pittsburgh's lineup.
There is a lot which can change between now and then. The Steelers could target a cheap veteran receiver in free agency, as well as drafting a wide receiver in the latter rounds of the NFL Draft. However, if nothing dramatically changes between now and the start of training camp, it seems the Steelers are excited to see what Rogers can bring to the table as both a receiver and return man.