Prior to the game Sunday, the Steelers announced wide receiver Eli Rogers would be inactive for the game. In his place, Justin Hunter had his first regular season game day activation.
After writing this simple article for the website, it made me wonder about the reason for Rogers’ benching, because it certainly wasn’t due to health reasons. After Mike Tomlin’s press conference on Tuesday, he said it was due to his muffed punt against the Chicago Bears in Week 3, and everyone would start with a clean slate heading into the Jacksonville Jaguars game in Week 5.
However, if the team is going to bench their starting punt returner, and an offensive weapon from the slot, before the biggest divisional game of the season to date, why would they keep him around?
Before fans bemoan such a thought, you should realize this isn’t the first time Rogers has been benched. In 2016 he was benched vs. the Patriots, despite Tomlin stating otherwise, and again in Week 4 due to a muffed punt. Other players have fumbled before, even in crucial situations, and not received such a punishment. To me, this speaks volumes about how the team views Rogers as a player.
If you are paying attention, it is obvious the Steelers want to see more of JuJu Smith-Schuster, and when Smith-Schuster is on the field it is rare Rogers would be too. Justin Hunter is more than capable as a receiver, and Darrius Heyward-Bey is a veteran who knows the offense both inside, and out. In other words, if the team were to part ways with Rogers, they could withstand it from a depth standpoint.
These thoughts are nothing more than speculation, but there are teams who would certainly give up a draft pick, or two, for Rogers’ services — even at this point in the season.
Getting rid of Rogers isn’t likely to happen, but if it did, there would be a ripple effect on the team. First, Antonio Brown would be the primary punt returner, again, which brings up the debate of whether it truly increases the risk of Brown getting injured. Second, it would severely cut down on the depth at the receiver position. Currently, the team has a full stable of capable receivers, but if 2016 taught us anything, it was a few injuries/suspensions could cripple a receiving corps. Lastly, is Rogers’ role on the offense easy to fill?
The Steelers have proven they can draft, and pick up undrafted free agent, receivers with the best in the NFL, and this fact could bring a sense of calm of the team were to shop Rogers to a team in need of a wide receiver. If the Steelers would have been able to keep Demarcus Ayers on their practice squad, a move like this would be even easier to accept if it were to happen.
Ultimately, the original thought which crossed my mind, and spawned this article, were draft picks. The Steelers traded some draft picks away in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, and with their acquisitions of players like Joe Haden, it may nullify the departure of a player like Lawrence Timmons when it comes to compensatory draft picks.
If a player like Rogers could get you a 4th round draft pick, or even a 5th, it could be worth looking into. Again, I’m not suggesting the Steelers will trade Rogers, or that he has no value to the team, but looking solely at draft picks, the team could get something for him while helping themselves in the future.
If I’m Kevin Colbert, I certainly would be picking up the phone and making some contacts regarding Rogers.