Eli Rogers Not Targeted Again Sunday

The Pittsburgh Steelers finally saw fit to give third-year wide receiver Eli Rogers a helmet again after being a healthy scratch for the past two weeks, but he may as well not have even been out there. The slot receiver played just 13 of 64 official offensive snaps and was not targeted on any of them.

That is the second time in as many games in which he has played that the Louisville product was not even targeted. After catching six passes on 11 targets over the course of the first two weeks of the season for 54 yards, he has not seen a pass come his way since.

We have to bear in mind, of course, that the Steelers came into the game against the Chiefs with a gameplan that emphasized running the ball, particularly when Kansas City’s defense gave them an opportune matchup. That including even on second- and third-and-long plays.

For comparison, Le’Veon Bell on his own carried the ball 32 times. James Conner and Terrell Watson earned three more carries, bringing the total number of runs up to 35 for the game. Ben Roethlisberger only attempted 25, and only dropped back 26 times.

In a game in which the pass might be more emphasized, Rogers might see a higher percentage of snaps, and perhaps even a target or two, even if he has clearly fallen to, at best, the fourth option among wide receivers, and perhaps the fifth option frequently enough whenever he is on the field.

During his first full season in the NFL a year ago, he caught 48 passes on 66 targets for a catch percentage of nearly 73, gaining nearly 600 yards with three touchdowns, which is fine work for a season in which he missed about a quarter of the playing time due to injuries and disciplinary reasons.

Prior to Sunday’s game, however, he found himself sitting on the bench in favor of Justin Hunter, a fifth-year former second-round draft pick whom the Steelers signed in free agency. Hunter did little in his admittedly sparse opportunities, though he was at least targeted.

It is notable that though Rogers was given the helmet, he did not resume his role as the punt returner, which seemed to be the catalyst for his initial benching after he muffed a punt against the Bears in week three that was recovered by Chicago, leading to an early touchdown drive.

I do not think it is clear what the future holds for the 5’10” wide receiver this season, nor do I think the coaching staff knows. It could indeed become a weekly battle between Rogers and Hunter for a helmet on game day depending on the week of practice and the matchup against the next opponent.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • David Shoff

    Geez, where was this running game plan when we played the jags?

  • francesco

    Coaches missed the boat.
    And so out goes the theory that its all on execution when in reality it is game planning strategy that matters.

  • Sam Clonch

    Man, if I’m Dan Smith I’m looking for someone to replace AB at punts too, lol! Whiffed free kick, then a muffed punt? Oh man, haha! Someone’s out of practice!

  • Steve Johnson

    If Cam Sutton is activated, I think Justin Hunter gets cut. Then Eli gets a helmet on game days.

  • falconsaftey43

    It’s not that simple, there is always more to the story. JAX committed 8-9 men to the box fairly consistently. KC did not (Bell only faced 8+ men on 22% of carries despite all the success he was having, for reference Fournette faced 8+ men 57% of the time this week).

    Steelers also had success running on 1st down vs KC (22 carries, 5.4 ypc). while they did not vs JAX (8 carries, 0.6 ypc). That makes a difference in weather you can continue running also.

    Not trying to absolve coaches of blame or suggest it was a good game plan, just pointing out that it’s not as black and white and simple as many would like it to be.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I wouldn’t object to that. Technically it wouldn’t matter too much since, while Hunter is a veteran and his contract wouldn’t come off the books, Sutton’s salary is already accounted for, so it wouldn’t be injurious to the cap.

  • Joseph DeFazio

    I was just thinking of “who gets cut when/if Sutton comes back?” Thank you for the obvious answer that I could not come up with.

  • nutty32

    Eli should work on his blocking if he wants to get on the field. But he doesn’t seem the type to do humble work.

  • SeventhHeavan

    Man poor guy…is this all because of that muffed punt? He should be playing. It’s not like anyone is lighting it up other than AB. Other than AB, everyone has been playing pedestrian. Our passing offense stinks right now and so does Ben.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Based on what? He’s never shown lack of effort in blocking and does fairly well for a receiver his size.

  • SouthernSteel

    Eli is just not good enough…he had over a year to lock down a starter roll but couldn’t…unless someone gets hurt we won’t see much more Eli

  • Matthew Marczi

    Not just the punt, of course. If he didn’t lose the slot job to Smith-Schuster he would be playing and getting targets.

  • nutty32

    It’s not so much “lack of effort,” but when it comes to blocking its fairly obvious who really wants to do it. Simply saying really working on sticking his nose in there every chance he gets is the quickest way for him to get on the field more.

  • JT

    You can commit to stopping the run when you have the corners Jax does. But when you have Peters and a wet blanket outside, you have to help those guys out.

  • Charles Haines

    Pump the brakes on that move…..still remember heading into AFCCG with Cobi Hamilton, D. Ayers and Rodgers opposite AB.

  • Balok’s Plight

    Need him on the field for those third down throws right at the sticks. Ju Ju doesn’t have the connections with Ben yet, AB is double covered, TE big disappointment. Get Eli back out there!

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well I have to disagree with your observations. For a slight slot receiver, his effort in the blocking game is strong. Certainly puts in a lot more effort than Brown does.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I wouldn’t put Hunter in a category above those other players.

  • walter

    he in the doghouse

  • nutty32

    ok, I’ll focus on his run game play more intently in the coming weeks.

  • will

    Rogers will go to the Pats and become a great star receiver.

  • will

    Exactly……

  • will

    Coaches are making a poor decision here with Rogers……just like they did with Deebo

  • Matthew Marczi

    If he plays, of course…honestly all the receivers actually stepped up in the blocking game on Sunday, oddly, even Brown. In fact, I see Alex has a film room cueued up in the morning about it. Though Rogers wasn’t used much. The only blocking assignment I recall he had other than on Bell’s touchdown, which was on the perimeter of the play, was on a screen to Brown on which he was the lone blocker for two defenders, so there was only so much he could do.

  • nutty32

    To combat this, Eli has to give it up in practice. Of course, I don’t see any of the practices but think it’s fair to assume he’s not going hog wild in practice, either.

  • jsteeler

    Ben is not throwing accurately, (over throwing too high or in the ground) Not throwing guys open, holding on the ball to long, not making good decisions with the ball and looking for AB to often on 3rd downs. Erratic and very inconsistent. AB makes Ben look good and has saved his Ass too many times this year.
    Is it me or should Ben use the pump more often than not. Defenders on the DL are getting their arms up, deflecting passes turning those into INT’s.

  • francesco

    So you are proving my point. KC did not have the right gameplan for not placing more defenders in the box.