Eli Rogers can do some of what Steelers truly need without Antonio Brown
With Antonio Brown out with a calf injury, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking for more production from all their wide receivers in an effort to replace his production. However, slot receiver Eli Rogers might be the only one who can provide Ben Roethlisberger with the comfortable throws he needs to establish a rhythm.
Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darrius Heyward-Bey will all have to do more. But quite possibly the single most important thing that Brown provides is clean and easy throws for Roethlisberger.
Brown does a number of things very well and routinely makes contested catches, but his dominance is firmly rooted in his ability to create separation. Despite his size and despite the fact that he’s used primarily on the outside, Brown uses his quickness and his route-running to gain several yards of separation with regularity.
Obviously, nobody expects Rogers to do exactly what Brown does exactly as he does it, but Rogers has some wiggle and actually has one advantage over Brown because he works out of the slot. Typically removed from the line of scrimmage, Rogers shouldn’t be subject to the press coverage that Brown routinely sees.
With his quickness, that gives him an extra step or two to evade defenders and provide those safe and easy throws that often serve as the building blocks for a more explosive passing offense. He can’t do as much with the ball after the catch as Brown, but that’s where they’ll hope to get more big-play ability from guys like Bryant and Smith-Schuster.
So be sure to keep a close eye on Rogers on Christmas day. If he gets involved early with a couple catches, it bodes well for the offense being able to handle themselves without Brown for the time being.
If he’s not a factor and the passing game appears stunted, life without Brown could be difficult.