Steelers News

Danny Smith Says Eli Rogers Needs To Prove He Can Be Team’s Punt Returner

While Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers wound up being active for the team’s Week 6 Sunday win over the Kansas City Chiefs, he wasn’t allowed to return any punts. That honor once again went to fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown, who really didn’t have a great game in that specific phase. In a recent interview with steelers.com, special teams coordinator Danny Smith let it be known that he’s open to Rogers returning punts again in the future.

“We need guys to do that. We really do,” said Smith. “It just so happens in our makeup of our football team, we don’t have a lot of guys. We don’t have a lot of numbers at that position. We go out for pregame warmups with less returners than anybody in this league. We address it at different times. It’s the availability of guys. He (Antonio) and Eli are two guys who can do it. I am not opposed to going back to Eli, but he has to prove he can do it. But AB [Brown] didn’t handle the ball well a couple of times. We have to do better in that area. It’s just attention to detail and focus. We have to do a better job of fielding the football.”

In addition to muffing and eventually recovering a third quarter punt by the Chiefs this past Sunday, Brown and fellow wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster seemingly had a miscommunication as to which one of them were going to field the Kansas City free kick following a first quarter safety. That miscommunication, or perhaps lack of understanding of the rules, led to the kick not being caught at all and it resulted in a turnover. Smith talked about that play during his recent interview.

“We have to field that ball, Smith said. “There are no excuses. It wasn’t a nice punt, it was floating, and it was windy. We are going to play in those conditions, we do all of the time. We practice in those conditions. We have to field the football, plain and simple.”

Brown has only averaged 3.8 yards per punt return this season since taking over that role from Rogers in Week 4. Rogers, on the other hand, averaged just 5.8 yards per punt return in the Steelers first three games of the season. He also muffed a punt in the team’s Week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears.

It will ultimately be interesting to see if rookie cornerback Cameron Sutton is given a chance to return punts whenever he returns from the Reserve/Injured list as that’s something he did very well during his college career at Tennessee. Sutton, however, won’t be placed on the team’s 53-man roster until sometime after the team’s bye week so in the meantime either Brown or Rogers will be returning punts.

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