Steelers WR Eli Rogers returns to practice off PUP list
For his first football practice in almost 11 months, Eli Rogers put on a little extra uniform than his teammates.
“I was so excited,” the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver said, lifting up a pair of shoulder pads, “I wore this.”
Wednesday was an un-padded practice for the Steelers. But Rogers didn’t care – he was cleared by the team to return to practice after not being allowed to do so while on the physically unable to perform list all throughout training camp, the preseason and first 11 games of the regular season.
“Absolutely, man, it was definitely exciting to be back out there,” said Rogers said, who had been recovering from a torn MCL suffered late during the playoff loss to Jacksonville last January.
After rehabbing all spring, Rogers re-signed with the Steelers on the day the team reported to camp at Saint Vincent in July. Players on the PUP list are not permitted to take part in practices until activated. Once the regular season begins, a player on PUP must sit out at least the first six weeks.
Rogers’ PUP stay lasted longer. But now that he has begun to practice, the Steelers have a 21-day window during which to activate him to the 53-man roster.
With five games left in the regular season, plus (hopefully, for the Steelers) a playoff run, is there enough time for Rogers to get in game shape, get on the field and contribute?
“Absolutely,” Rogers said.
“Once I get back in that (position) room, I am good.”
Rogers indicated his surgically-repaired right knee was still not yet 100 percent – but it was close enough that he felt ready to play.
“It’s good,” Rogers said, “getting better, I guess you could say.”
The Steelers have yet to find a reliable threat at wide receiver after standouts JuJu Smith-Schuster (77 catches this season) and Antonio Brown (71 catches); the other four wide receivers on the team have combined for 39 catches.
Rogers, who in 2016 was second among the team’s wide receivers in catches with 48, could be the answer. A slot receiver by trade, the Steelers in recent weeks have increasingly been moving Smith-Schuster from the slot to the outside, leaving a hole in the slot that in part has been filled by Ryan Switzer.
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville in 2015, Rogers spent his rookie season on injured reserve but. But after his breakout season he fell to 18 catches for 149 yards last season with the emergence of then-rookie Smith-Schuster. Rogers, though, did have five catches against the Jaguars in the divisional playoffs.
Rogers also has been the Steelers’ punt returner at times over the past two seasons, although Switzer has seemed to solidify that position in 2018.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.