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Steelers notebook: Eli Rogers might be back in role as punt returner

Joe Rutter
| Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, 5:24 p.m.
The Steelers' Eli Rogers reacts to a fumble recovered by the Bears' Sherrick McManis during a punt return in the first quarter Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, at Soldier Field in Chicago Il.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Eli Rogers reacts to a fumble recovered by the Bears' Sherrick McManis during a punt return in the first quarter Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, at Soldier Field in Chicago Il.

Eli Rogers' benching for fumbling away a punt return against the Chicago Bears might last just one week.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Rogers might reclaim his job as the team's primary punt returner Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Rogers, a third-year receiver, was inactive for the Steelers' 26-9 win against the Baltimore Ravens. Antonio Brown resumed returning punts, and Justin Hunter dressed for the first time this season.

“We'll see how the week goes,” Tomlin said. “I'll give him an opportunity. Like I told him a week ago, it's not a firing. It's a re-centering. He had a good week (of practice) last week. I'm sure he's excited about getting back there tomorrow.

“Decisions were made for that game. I'm open to role changing and evolving as we prepare for this week.”

Rogers' fumble led to a Bears touchdown and 7-0 deficit for the Steelers. He continued returning punts the remainder of that game.

Brown, the Steelers' main punt returner in recent seasons, returned two punts for 15 yards with one fair catch against the Ravens. Rogers has returned eight punts for 46 yards, a 5.8 average.

“He put the ball on the ground ... that's one his chief roles and why he's a participant,” Tomlin said. “I wanted to give him a week off and re-establish some fundamentals in that area.”

Rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster has taken snaps from Rogers at slot receiver and had three catches for 47 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens.

Of sound body

The Steelers will return to practice Wednesday without any nagging injuries from the Ravens' game.

“Just the normal bumps and bruises,” Tomlin said.

Worth monitoring are safety Mike Mitchell (hamstring), who missed his first game in four seasons with the Steelers, and tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring), who missed the past two games. Linebacker James Harrison also was inactive against the Ravens after missing practice Friday because of illness.

“He was feeling better Sunday,” Tomlin said, “but he had missed a lot of preparation time.”

No penalty problems

The Steelers remain one of the NFL's most-penalized teams. With 37 penalties, the Steelers trail only the San Francisco 49ers (39). The 316 penalty yards are tied for the league high with Kansas City.

Against the Ravens, the Steelers were penalized eight times, with six infractions called against the offensive line.

Tomlin said one factor was the officiating crew led by referee Walt Anderson.

“It's a widely known fact that that group throws more penalties than most crews in football,” Tomlin said. “Eight, per se, doesn't necessarily describe our quality of play. Certain crews have a personality. We know Walt and his crew call it tight, and they did.”

Tomlin was impressed the Steelers didn't commit penalties on punt and kickoff returns.

“That's a significant step in a hostile game like that,” he said.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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