Let’s Remember Some Steelers: WR Eli Rogers

As we have done for several years to bide our time during the offseason, we’re looking back on Pittsburgh Steelers you may have forgotten… or not remembered in the first place. Our “blast from the past” series, with a new, dumb name, highlighting players who have long hung up their cleats.

If you have a player you’d like to see profiled, leave it in the comments below.

Eli Rogers/WR Louisville (2015-2018)

Here’s a pretty wild fun fact. In Steelers’ history, and they’ve been playing football since 1933, Eli Rogers has the third-most receptions by an undrafted free agent wide receiver. I stress wide receiver here because TE Randy Grossman and RB Willie Parker were UDFAs with more career catches. Still, Rogers being in the top five overall is no small feat, though he only needed 78 catches to get there. If you’re wondering, the record holder is Dwight Stone’s 152 while Nate Washington has 104.

Rogers was one of the most interesting UDFA signings coming out of Louisville, a Miami kid who joined good friend Teddy Bridgewater at UL. But it would take a year for him to play his first NFL snap. Rogers sprained his foot in early August and was placed on injured reserve on the 5th, wiping out his first year.

But he recovered and got healthy in time to attack 2016. He impressed, made the team, and was a serious contributor. In the Week One opener, he caught six passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in a Monday night win over the Washington Redskins. In Week 9, he posted his first 100-yard game with a six-catch, 103 yard performance against the Baltimore Ravens.

His biggest catch of the season came late in the season in the Ravens’ rematch. As part of Pittsburgh’s game-winning drive, Rogers skied to make this sensational catch for 20 yards, putting the Steelers in the red zone. Off Antonio Brown’s “Immaculate Extension,” they’d go on to win the game.

He finished the season third on the Steelers in yards, receptions, and tied third in touchdowns, part of a top-ten scoring offense in the league.

But the drafting of WR JuJu Smith-Schuster reduced Rogers’ involvement by 2017, ending the year appearing in 14 games but catching only 18 passes. In the final game of the year, the team’s playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Rogers tore his ACL. It made him unavailable to begin 2018 and though he returned late in the year, he caught just 12 passes for an ugly 79 yards, an average of 6.6 per catch. Pittsburgh inked him to a contract extension but he failed to make the team for 2019.

After falling out of the NFL, he spent time with every league who would have him. First stop was getting drafted by the DC Defenders in the 2019 XFL Draft, seeing early success with them before the league folded at the start of the pandemic. In early 2021, he signed with the CFL’s Montreal Allouettes before getting selected by the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits in 2022. There, he was placed on IR in early April, an all too-common occurrence for him. As the XFL returned, so did Rogers, drafted by the Orlando Guardians. The team was terrible, finishing 1-9, but Rogers caught 31 passes for 319 yards and a pair of scores. Here’s a look at one in his best performance, a 10-catch game against Arlington.

Because he’s a more recent example, there is no post-career to discuss. Rogers is still playing professional football. The biggest question is – could he get back into the NFL? Given how competitive wide receiver is, with younger prospects always cycling through, it might be tough. Still, Rogers is only 30 and could compete for a slot receiver and punt returner duties. Coming off a year in which he played and had good tape, it’s conceivable he could get back on the tryout circuit and maybe added to a roster or veteran exception on the practice squad.

If not, he’ll have spent his NFL career entirely in Pittsburgh. Though he mainly shined in one year, he made it count and made his small mark on franchise history.

Eli Rogers, your blast from the past.

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