Eli Rogers Not Targeted Sunday Amid Diminished Playing Time

Are the Pittsburgh Steelers beginning to phase out or demote third-year wide receiver Eli Rogers? One might begin to wonder about that if they observe the decline in his playing time that became evident on Sunday. In fact, the team’s starting slot receiver from a year ago was not even targeted in the loss to Chicago.

Rogers did play 22 snaps out of the Steelers’ 65, to be clear. That is still just a bit over a third of their total offensive snaps, which, actually, really is about what a slot receiver’s workload would look like a decade and a half ago before it became the norm to use three wide receivers on a typical play.

But it’s not that the Steelers are resorting to a heavy dose of run-heavy sets with tight ends and fullbacks as far as the eye can see. As a matter of fact, they are utilizing them less frequently so far this year than in any other year we have tracked, which may well mean less frequently than ever before.

55 of the Steelers’ 65 snaps on Sunday saw them use at least three wide receivers, with one snap on which they used four. They nearly 85-percent workload is not far off from what they were already using from the first two games. So Rogers’ snaps didn’t drop because of personnel packages.

They dropped because they were given to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who played 52 snaps on Sunday, though that is a notable topic for another day—something I will probably tackle for tomorrow. What is interesting is the fact that they moved heavily toward him, and away from Rogers, in the second half on Sunday.

The Steelers played 31 snaps in the second half, and Rogers only featured on seven of them, including the final drive of the game for them with 52 seconds left in which they ran three plays. He was on the field over Martavis Bryant, for whatever reason, in that instance.

There was a stretch of 14 plays in the seconds half, spanning the entirety of the three drives prior to their last, on which Rogers did not even take the field. In contrast, Smith-Schuster played all but one snap in the second half.

I would be interested to hear from Todd Haley why the Steelers moved away from Rogers for such a long period of time during the game and if there was anything behind it. They still had him returning punts during that time, so I wouldn’t think that he was dealing with a temporary injury or something.

But of course as I always remind, one game is such a small sample size that it is fruitless to extrapolate from that what will come next. It can, however, be useful in identifying areas to monitor in the future in the chance that develop into a trend. If Rogers’ playing time begins to decline, this is where it will have started.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • falconsaftey43

    I really like Rogers, but the Steelers have not been good at throwing in the middle of the field this season for whatever reason. Part of that has included several misses between Ben and Rogers. The Steelers are dead last with 4.23 yards per attempt when throwing to the middle of the field.

    AB: 4/5, 50 yrds
    James: 5/8, 28 yrds
    Bell: 4/4, 15 yrds
    Bryant: 1/2, 13 yrds
    JuJu: 1/2, 4 yrds
    Rogers, 0/4, 0 yrds
    McDonald, 0/1, 0 yrds

  • Iulo

    Hard to know why Eli is not being used.
    If Ben likes a receiver no matter how he is named he will throw some balls… but if he
    loses his confidence on that receiver then forget it…
    But I would say, its more a strategy case… JuJu has not received also many balls in the middle…
    Bell is always the scape-valve so I don’t count them.
    You can not really compare the Slot-receiver with a TE, so I also ignore them.
    Then you have only AB as a main slot-receiver and sporadic efforts by other guys…
    Tomlin or Haley are responsible (or maybe Ben by forcing the long ball)…

  • steeltown

    I like the JuJu selection, I know JuJu is the better pedigree and most likely the future at the position, but Ben has built a rapport with Eli that he simply just doesnt have with JuJu yet.

    Atleast 50/50 split snap count while this offense gets back on track, if not 60/40 in favor of Eli

  • pcantidote

    JuJu, Eli and the TEs should have big games on Sunday if Ben does what he says and takes what the D gives. You know the Ravens will play 2 deep and keep everything in front and shadow AB. Ben just needs to keep taking that crossing routes and the middle and play in hurry up mode and just wear them out.

  • steelburg

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. You basically just said they same thing I have been saying from the start about both Eli and juju.

  • Michael Conrad

    I don’t know you guys seem to have all the videos of the game is Rogers getting open in time is he open and not getting the ball or is he covered and not getting separation.

    Ben needs to step up and read the D and move the ball around to different receivers. Ben needs to stay after practice and go over the plays and WR progressions to me this is a product of a QB who does not want to put in the time to be better he figures Bell and Brown will bail him out.

    On Rogers as I said you guys have the videos to me he is a step slow coming out of breaks and does not have a quickness to him. Plus I think he runs the wrong routes once in a while.

    Does Ben realize if he moves the ball around and gets first downs the Steelers move the ball and get more plays. Brown will get his share. I’m not sure he does.

  • nutty32

    19 has dat blocking ju ju.

  • Scunge

    I am not surprised by this and was expecting JuJu to push Rogers to the sideline. JuJu is taller, 30 pounds heavier, has a larger catch radius, can be used as a quasi-TE/Ward type of blocker. Rogers is at a disadvantage and will lose more and more playing time as JuJu gets comfortable and ascends.

    Now if only they would activate Hunter so that we can have another deep/red zone threat and possibly light a fire under Bryant. We have options at WR, and talent besides Rogers and Bryant, if those two can’t get motivated and raise their games then maybe they should lose playing time to JuJu and Hunter.

  • Matthew Marczi

    For whatever rapport that they might have, there are still a number of egregious miscommunications between the two, kind of how it was with Markus Wheaton. I really don’t get it.