Eli Rogers Rises To Mike Tomlin’s Challenge

Steelers’ fans have known about Eli Rogers throughout the season. It has been a bit of a bumpy ride, there was the deactivation at mid-season and games where he was rarely targeted, but his success wasn’t – or shouldn’t have been – a shock to any fan.

But on a national stage? Which it was to the highest degree, a record number of people tuning in to NFL Network to watch. They now know who Rogers is.

That’s the challenge Mike Tomlin gave Rogers leading into this week. To rise to the moment in easily the biggest game of his young football career. That’s what he relayed to Bob Labriola in one of my favorite’s interviews of the week, his weekend sitdown with the Steelers’ head coach.

“I was just telling Eli the other day that I remembered back in 2010 there was an unknown guy running down the sideline against the Baltimore Ravens with a ball stuck to his head,” Tomlin said. “That weekend all the football world discovered who was. Maybe this is Eli’s weekend.”

It was Brown who made the final, and biggest, play but Rogers came up huge throughout the game, including that drive. His diving grab over the middle that put the Steelers in the red zone before finishing off the drive a few plays later.

It’s those moments Tomlin embraces.

“That’s what I like about this time of year. That’s what these big games and these moments present to people, and if their readiness and mentality are aligned, they have an opportunity to really burst onto an international scene from a professional sports standpoint.”

It’s also a bit of a personal redemption for Rogers. That catch he made made me distinctly related to the missed opportunity he made at the end of the Steelers’ losing streak, dropping a contested catch at the end of the first half against the Dallas Cowboys. It was a difficult play, there is zero doubt about that, but one Todd Haley seemed to imply at the time he needed to make.

“We missed opportunities…the final drive of the half we had a chance to catch a ball down the middle,” Haley said at the time. “Eli Rogers, you know if you hold on, you’re probably guaranteed points…”

This time, Rogers came through. He finished the play and led to a drive that ended in points. The biggest ones of the season.

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Getitout

    Eli is stepping up at the right time. Our WR’s have gone from a strength of the team with Bryant/WheatonCoates/DHB/Green gone for chunks of time to Eli/Ayers/Cobi/X/Jesse complimenting AB. If I would’ve told you at the beginning of the year these were the guys leading us to the AFC north title…..

  • pittfan


  • Douglas Andrews

    Let’s hope a catch like that gives him all the confidence he needs. Glad to see him get more targets to open up the middle of the field. I think that was one reason AB was able to go to work in the second half.

  • StillersInThe6

    I couldn’t help but think of Santonio when he made that catch. Clutch moment for the kid.

  • nutty32

    The slot and any non-AB receiver is basically singled up the entire game. If you can’t get open against single coverage, you have no business being an nfl receiver. I expect more from Eli if he wants to be more than just one of the “secondary guys.”

  • Steve Bozell

    Eli’s been ready all year, Haley is just enamored with multiple TE sets and full backs. Run 11s and this offense is very hard to stop.

  • Craig M

    Ben likes tall receivers, Haley and Tomlin have been enamored w/ Coates so much he had to work his way off the starting gig. Rogers should be set as our slot/ extra go to guy and if Bryant gets his act together I expect Coates to be gone next season. With the quality young players we presently have up and down both sides of the team we are faced w/ a lovely dilemma going into the draft next season. IMO

  • Sam Clonch

    Coates gone next year??? He’ll only be in the third year of his 4 year contract. I agree Bryant would get the nod over him, but don’t think you can be much more wrong if you say that there’s a reason to not hang onto Coates (at least as long as we’re paying him rookie deal money).

  • Sam Clonch

    A better thrown ball and he’s off to the races for a bit. Not sure if he gets in, but there was some open space in front of him. Only Weddle to beat.

  • Coates won’t be gone til his contract is up, but I get what you are saying and could definitely see him as a 4/5 behind Rogers and maybe Hamilton if Bryant get his act together.

  • SilverSteel

    Coates gone? hmmm I think that BB is enamored with tall receivers. I don’t think he will let that happen. We have been patient with Coates and I think we will let him develop. He is a physical specimen and so freakin fast. Even if he is 2nd string, I think we should keep this guy. I would hate to see the PATS or Ravens get him and have him blossom like Sanders did.

  • Sam Clonch

    Then I’d assume that Bell was having a great year!

  • William Weaver

    He had to throw around someone to get the ball where he did get it. Wasn’t an open throwing line if I remember correctly

  • Sam Clonch

    He was rolling out, but don’t see anyone right in front of him. It WAS a spectacular catch though, maybe the toughest of the game.

  • Nathanael Dory

    It was an open throwing lane. Rogers made a great catch

  • Brian Miller

    I would love for us to draft WR Williams from Clemson, pair him with Bryant, Rogers, AB, Coates, Green, it would be unbelievable. I know, there is no way we draft a WR in the 1st or 2nd round this next draft, but a guy can dream…

  • William Weaver

    Fantastic!! I am here in Louisville. I seen him do that in college a lot.

  • William Weaver

    Wouldn’t bet against them drafting a WR high. Rounds 1-3. Bryant can’t be counted for next year. If it happens great but can not count him. Coates is a one trick pony for now. DHB is a great #5.

  • Mr jack

    Will not happen,we will ride it out with Bryant and we should .

  • Steve Johnson

    Williams is projected to be a 1st Rd WR, he will not last past the 15th pick.

  • Steve Johnson

    I would take DHB over Coates anyday. He doesn’t fight for the ball at all. As big and strong as he looks, he allowed Pac-Man to punk him.

  • William Weaver

    Don’t draft a guy expecting him to play, trusting him to stay out of trouble? I hope he plays again because he is a freak and unbelievable talent but I wouldn’t trust him. I would prepare myself to be without him,hoping I have him.

  • Craig M

    Cowboys had Bob Hays, one of the fastest men in the world and kept him, even though he had hands like rocks, so maybe they will keep Coates- but he sure would make good trade bait.

  • Craig M

    DHB, Bryant, Cobi, AB, Rogers, Ayers, (Wheaton)- wouldn’t you like to see maybe another quality DB for Coates?

  • Sam Clonch

    What makes you think anyone would trade a quality DB for him, unless he is in fact a good receiver? And I really like our DBs, so give me Sammie!!

  • WreckIess

    Why would anyone trade a good DB for Coates? Hell why would we trade Coates? He was one of the best 2nd WRs in the league earlier this year before he got hurt.

  • Craig M

    Not a back but maybe a draft pick we can add to too pick higher.

  • Sam Clonch

    No, and I get the sense you have a prejudice against Sammie, one I don’t think the coaches or a majority of fans share. He WAS on pace for a 1000+ yard season before the injury.

  • Craig M

    No prejudice, just think his hands are questionable and that other receivers are more sure handed. Now maybe he can get better and if so then cool but if not why take up a spot when we have an abundance of talent. Now this is all just my two cents and that’s all it is worth, you don’t agree, it’s a free world- we’ll just wait and see how it all plays out. I wasn’t real sold on Cockrell but I’m coming around, was all big on Thomas from San Diego- ate a lot of crow there. I’m still not real happy w/ Haley but he has flashes of brilliance and Tomlin I gave some time to feel him out, was disappointed, then started seeing him maturing, since he started out so young as a HC. Tomlin could have 12+ more years as our HC and the skies the limit w/ what he can achieve. Everyone was all giddy about Ben when we first got him but I noticed when he kept both his feet pointing at the LOS he had a tendency to think run/ scramble 1st pass 2nd, then he started placing one foot perpendicular to the line and became way more effective as a passer. He also dropped back to far (one extra step gives the DE 1 extra second to get to him). He’s gotten a lot better as a QB w/ quicker release, been more effective and standing upright w/ Haley in charge. Me I wasn’t a Bradshaw fan when he started out I liked Terry Hanratty a lot better but now I put Bradshaw right up there w/ the best. Coates might develop into an all time great- but first he better find a way to hang on to the ball more consistently. IMO

  • Sam Clonch

    See, when what you “think” isn’t actually supported by “facts”, that would be called “prejudice”.

  • Craig M

    Draft Analysis,
    Unreliable hands, poor focus leading to drops in all areas of the field, doesn’t play w/ extended catch radius, drop ratio of 19%, inconsistent play speed, gears down on deep routes- turns catchable balls into overthrows, suspect ball tracking, inconsistent w/ contested catching, stiff hips/ limited route runner, slow to gather and turn up-field on catch and run, 40 time- 4.43- 11th place, drill work spotty, inconsistent hands, not a natural play catcher or disciplined route runner.
    Now mind you we have an ace in Mann as a WR coach and a lot of this can be coached up and w/ his upper body strength, downfield blocking ability besides STs play he has huge plusses. It’s just I haven’t seen him be consistent enough in play. DHB was toted high out of college and he never reached his potential, we had Wallace who had great speed but no route running/ fighting for the ball ability. Coates had a great game against the Jets but that one drop ball, which would have been a TD, brought up his development question, IMO. With Bryant coming back (hopefully) I just think he is the odd man out, but we won’t know until his broken fingers heal. And if he doesn’t develop into a catching machine he becomes another DHB from the Raiders. Personally I hope the kid makes it simply because of his potential, for the team.

  • Sam Clonch

    Antonio Brown Draft Analsysis:

    Very thin and small in stature with a wiry build. Lacks
    functional strength to beat the jam and will struggle to create separation
    against man coverage. Raw route runner- does not sell routes or show a feel for navigating zones. Concentration lapses show up too frequently. Has a prima donna attitude and does not like to work. Did not play quality competition on a weekly basis. Underpowered blocker. Attitude and work ethic are concerns.

  • Sam Clonch

    Would bet you a case of scotch Sammie makes the team next year.

  • Craig M

    I’m sorry thought we were discussing Coates. AB came into the league established himself and never looked back- hope Coates will do the same but as of right now I see him at the bottom and a DHB replacement w/ good trade quality, if Bryant makes it back.