As a lifelong Steelers fan, I’ve seen the team develop some of the greatest wide receivers to ever have played the game. The last 10 years have been truly exemplary of that system. In 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers had rookies Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, a second-year Mike Wallace, and a veteran Hines Ward. Antonio Brown has developed into a top three receiver talent, and an argument could be made that he’s at the number one spot. Emmanuel Sanders has had a solid career with Denver and consistently ranks in the top 25 of all receivers in the NFL. Mike Wallace has been a journeyman contributor to the Dolphins, Vikings, and Ravens. Hines Ward is undoubtedly a future Hall of Fame wide receiver.
What does all this have to do with Eli Rogers? It all boils down to the talent scouting and wide receiver development of the Steelers. Last season, Rogers was viewed by many as the up and coming talent on this team. Rogers ended his season with 594 yards on 48 receptions. This included three touchdowns over the course of the 13 games he played in, starting eight of those. Rogers ended the season clearly being the slot receiver for the Steelers going forward. At 5’10” and 186 pounds, Eli has almost identical measurables as Antonio Brown.
And then came JuJu.
The Steelers drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster in an absolute shocker of a 2nd round pick. 6’2” JuJu towers over Rogers and outweighs him by almost 30 pounds. JuJu’s measurements are less Antonio Brown and more Dez Bryant. Height and weight certainly aren’t everything (as proven by Brown’s success), but Smith-Schuster fits a role for the Steelers that Rogers simply doesn’t. That role is the Red Zone, contested-catch, clutch receiver.
The Steelers converted only 54% of their Red Zone appearances last year. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, that number is not acceptable. Rogers, at this point in his career, is simply too small and too unskilled to fill that role for the Steelers. With this being his last contract year, a muffed punt in week 3, and having actually been benched in weeks 4 and 5 for Justin Hunter, this spells the end for Rogers. Unless he seriously turns it on for the rest of the season, this will likely be another wide receiver casualty of free agency for the Steelers.
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