The Pittsburgh Steelers have found themselves another freakish athlete in wide receiver Eli Rogers. After missing the entire 2015 season due to a foot injury, this undrafted player from Louisville has made his preseason snaps count.
Against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday he put on a show and recorded 4 receptions for 39 yards. This might not seem like a lot, but he registered several first downs which continued to help the offense move down the field. His performance made him the Steelers Digest Player of the Week; an outstanding accomplishment in a not so terrific preseason game.
Let's take a look at Rogers' performance in week two and the three plays that really made him look truly outstanding.
Need to get a third-down completion to move the chains? It looks like receiver Eli Rogers is the man. Quarterback Landry Jones had a horrific second preseason game against the Eagles. After throwing four interceptions, some of which were not his fault, the third-year quarterback needed a "safety blanket" to throw the ball to.
Over the offseason Rogers and Antonio Brown worked together to perfect each others receiving craft. We already know Brown is the best receiver in the game today. Rogers, we don't know how good he is just yet, but he definitely showed potential during this Eagles game.
On a 3rd and 3 in the first quarter of play, Landry Jones needed a simple route to help his offense gain a first down. Rogers showed great quickness off the ball and did an extremely sharp inside cut which gave him the inside leverage over the defender who was playing about 5-yards off the line.
Rogers showed extreme speed, agility, and incredible route-running abilities on this one play. If the defender is playing 5-yards off of the receiver, Rogers can just do a simple slant route and gain the first down every time, not to mention you can never have too many receivers who aren't scared to go across the middle for the "dirty" plays.
Oh look.. another 3rd down conversion to Eli Rogers. This might just be a trend this season as he continues to perfect his craft and show great route-running ability in the preseason.
On a 3rd and 6 Rogers faked like he was going to the outside and then came back and did another slant route. This slight hesitation is what makes Antonio Brown the best in the business. In fact, if you watch the play and didn't know any better, you would think the receiver would have a No. 84 on his jersey.
The defender bit on the fake for just one split second, and Rogers showed his speed and ability to turn the play upfield. The difference between Brown and young Rogers? Brown would have felt the defender going for his legs and eluded the tackle, turning the first down into a huge gain. I have a feeling he will learn this skill before long.
This was one of my favorite plays by Rogers during Thursday's preseason game. On a simple bubble screen on 2nd and 19, in which Rogers took up field for a gain of 14-yards, he showed great football instincts when he used tight end Jesse James to block for him. Not only did Rogers do a nice job following his blocks, he pushed James where he needed to go to gain extra yards.
Football is a game of inches and every single yard counts. We have seen this so many times during our lifetime. Just gaining that extra yard could end up going a long way, and it truly is special that an undrafted athlete, in only his second season, is doing such a great job every time his name is called upon. The question now becomes can he do this when the games aren't meaningless?
This young athlete looks poised for a breakout season in 2016, and might just be the starting slot receiver when the team travels to Washington in Week 1. Yes, Markus Wheaton is going to take that position back and Sammie Coates will be outside with Antonio Brown and sometimes Darrius Heyward-Bey, but Rogers just has true route-running ability and has a knack for converting third downs. He could just come into the game on third-downs to try his creative route combinations and gain big chunks of yards, but who really knows how the receiver depth chart will shake out when all is said and done.
He has shown in these first two preseason matchups that he could be extremely useful in the Steelers' offense when called upon. We will just have to wait and find out if he makes the 53-man roster (he definitely should) and how offensive coordinator Todd Haley is going to incorporate this freakish athlete into an already stacked offense.