Steelers activate Eli Rogers, place Marcus Gilbert on injured reserve
It has taken 11 months and 13 games, but wide receiver Eli Rogers will finally suit up for the Pittsburgh Steelers again.
The Steelers made the news official Saturday when they activated Rogers from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Rogers is expected to be in uniform Sunday when the Steelers play the New England Patriots at Heinz Field.
Rogers tore his ACL late in the Steelers’ playoff loss to Jacksonville in January. The Steelers re-signed him to a one-year contract on the day training camp opened in July, but he was not cleared to return to practice until Nov. 28.
Rogers’ return could mean that slot receiver Ryan Switzer won’t play against the Patriots. Switzer showed up on the injury report Friday with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable.
The Steelers had to decide by next week whether to activate Rogers or place him on injured reserve for the rest of the season. Instead, right tackle Marcus Gilbert is the player who will head to injured reserve. He was placed on the list Saturday so the Steelers could make room on the 53-man roster for Rogers.
Gilbert has missed seven consecutive games with a knee injury. Matt Feiler has started in his absence.
Rogers played in 27 games for the Steelers in the 2016-17 seasons, making 12 starts. He has 66 catches for 743 yards and four touchdowns.
The Steelers made a change to their injury report Saturday when they downgraded running back James Conner from questionable to doubtful. Conner has not participated in a full practice since suffering an ankle sprain in the Steelers’ loss to the Los Angeles Chargers two weeks ago.
Stevan Ridley and rookie Jaylen Samuels filled in for Conner last Sunday in a 24-21 loss at Oakland, and they will be the primary running backs if Conner is unable to play against the Patriots.
Don’t look back
The only thing that stopped the Steelers from running the table and winning their final 11 games of the 2017 season was that December slip-up to New England, which came down to the controversial non-catch call against Jesse James in the final minute.
James prefers not to look back at that play and analyzing whether it cost the Steelers a No. 1 playoff seed. He said the point became moot when the Steelers lost in the divisional round to Jacksonville.
“It doesn’t matter which way it went,” James said. “If we would have been Super Bowl champions, we would have been Super Bowl champions after that game. We didn’t have what it took to make a playoff run. We got beat at our house.”
James watched the Patriots game as part of his regular film study, and he doesn’t take comfort that the Steelers came within that overturned touchdown catch of getting a rare win against New England.
“I’m not going to say that just because we played them close last year that it means we are going to have the secret recipe to be able to beat them,” James said. “We have to focus on where we are this year.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.