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.

  • Reader783

    …And Danny Smith needs to prove he can be the special teams coach.

    Sorry, low hanging fruit.

  • Charles Mullins

    We should have kept Ayers over Hunter.

  • Stairway7

    Is he still with NE or did they cut him?

  • Charles Mullins

    His twitter is still all Steelers stuff and he actually has a website about himself that is allSteelers stuff. They should bring him back. We have enough tall guys who run down the field and don’t catch the ball.

  • Chris92021

    Both Danny Smith and Eli Rogers need to be gone. Smith as soon as possible because his ineptitude might cost the Steelers dearly (Lord knows I’ve seen bad special teams ruin Steelers seasons in the past and Smith is by far the worst special teams coach I’ve ever seen, and that includes Jay Hayes). Rogers, as soon as Smith-Schuster can be trusted to do the right thing. The only thing keeping Rogers on this team is Smith-Schuster’s inexperience and the offense not being good enough to overcome rookie mistakes. Rogers is strictly an insurance policy. He is nothing special.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Getting a little tired of this. There are 31 other teams in the NFL that don’t seem to have a problem finding punt/kick return guys. At some point you have to look at the coach and ask why he can’t seem to find guys, and when he does they fail miserably.
    I don’t know how long it’s been, but it has been a very long time since I remember a kick return past the 30 yard line. Also, are you telling me no player over the course of the last 4 or 5 years Danny Smith has been there is capable of returning punts on a consistent basis besides AB?

  • falconsaftey43

    There is no reason to get rid of Rogers. He’s depth, which you need. He proved last year he can be very productive as the slot WR.

  • falconsaftey43

    Ayers was released from their PS on 9/23. He has been a free agent ever since.

  • capehouse

    Should have kept Ayers.

  • capehouse

    He was released? No shtt. Steelers will never take him back. He’s in Dri Archer’s doghouse after declining our PS invite.

  • falconsaftey43

    It’s not like the rest of the NFL has been scrambling after him either…

  • dennisdoubleday

    We have one of the best punt returners in the league in AB. No reason for him not to do it–don’t live in your fears. AB has been pretty conservative about when he fair catches, but if he’s there he can take advantage of a mistake.

    What I don’t get is why they kept Fitz Toussaint on KRs all last year when he was terrible at it.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’d like to see Sutton get a chance if there is room to put him on the roster. He was dynamic in college. I can live without Hunter on the roster.

  • dennisdoubleday

    He’s below the line.

  • capehouse

    Yeah I thought it was a terrible mistake on his part. Career suicide almost.

  • Michael James

    Well, let’s take a look at our special teams:
    The kickoff-return-game is horrendous and dead last in the NFL, averaging only around 16 yards per return.
    Punting isn’t good either, the other team wins the field position battle every game.
    Field goal unit already has a horrendous mistake this season, too.
    It’s time for Danny to go imho. Same procedure every year…

  • EdJHJr

    Danny needs to prove he can get someone to do it as well
    Heck he can say that about me too

  • Steeler Nation!

    With arrow pointing down

  • Charles Mullins

    Looks like the Texans just worked out DA so I am assuming the patriots released him at some point.

    The Patriots signed Heinicke on September 23rd after releasing WR Demarcus Ayers (who had previously been earning more than the practice squad minimum). Heinicke spent his first two seasons in the NFL as a depth option for the Minnesota Vikings, but the 6’1, 200 pound quarterback runs an incredible 4.60s 40 yard dash and 6.96s three cone, and has an excellent 10’3 broad jump.

  • Charles Mullins

    Man… you were way ahead of me 🙂

  • gdeuce

    they’ve only returned 8 kicks

  • gdeuce

    Ayers is still a FA after getting cut from the patriots practice squad

  • Michael Mosgrove

    rogers needs to prove himself.
    danny needs to prove why other than comfortability why the heck he still has a job in the burgh. he is average.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    he was bottom of the roster for a reason.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    ridiculous. danny smith is average and has been for years. rogers had one messed up play. lay off the green stuff.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    ne cut him a couple weeks ago.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    almost? dudes probably working at dairy queen right now.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    his only claim to fame.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    yup. as well haley needs to go to. haley had a okay-good game vs the chiefs, which he should, but overall average at best. normally he is thoroughly maddening. like trying to ride a 19 point score through an entire game and calling the same play progressions 22 times in the second half….cough cough cough.

  • Charles Mullins

    Hopefully not. His move in turning down the PS was stupid, but he is young and I hope the best for him. That punt return was electric.

  • Michael James

    Because they know they’re horrendous. Those 8 kicks they returned were dead last in the league in return-yardage per return.