As Day 2 of the 2022 USFL Draft got underway on February 23, the Pittsburgh Maulers had the chance to select former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers with their first pick in the 13th round. Instead, Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson passed on him in favor of former Miami Hurricanes receiver Jeffrey Thomas, who earned an opportunity with the New England Patriots as a rookie undrafted free agent in 2020, but was waived prior to the start of the regular season.
One pick later, the Tampa Bay Bandits snapped up Rogers, 29, with the fifth selection in round 13, reuniting the 5-foot-10 wideout with Bandits head coach Todd Haley, who was the Steelers’ offensive coordinator for most of the time Rogers spent in Pittsburgh.
It’s something of a surprise that the Maulers bypassed a proven NFL wide receiver with solid name recognition in Pittsburgh in favor of Thomas, who—rightly or wrongly—came to the Pats with the proverbial “talented but troubled” label, having been dismissed from Miami’s football team during his sophomore season after what the Miami Herald described as a “clash” with Hurricanes receivers coach Ron Dugans.
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Eli Rogers Thrived in Todd Haley’s Offense in 2016
As for Rogers, he played for the Steelers for three years (2016-18), with his first two seasons in Pittsburgh coinciding with the last two years of Todd Haley’s six-year run as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator.
In their first year together, Rogers—a Miami native who played his college football at Louisville—became something of a favorite target for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, earning 66 targets and catching 48 passes in 13 games, good for 594 yards and three touchdown receptions, as per Pro Football Reference.
In 2017 he hauled in 18 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown but tore his ACL in Pittsburgh’s divisional round playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rogers managed to make it back for three games in 2018 but had just 12 receptions for 79 yards. Then in 2019 he lost his job to slot receiver/return specialist Ryan Switzer, who managed to stick around for a year-plus before losing his job to Ray-Ray McCloud.
Rogers Has Been Part of the NFL, XFL, CFL and Now the USFL
In 2020 Rogers played in five games for the DC Defenders of the XFL, recording a total of 171 yards from scrimmage. In January 2021 he signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.
The former undrafted free agent initially joined the Steelers shortly after the 2015 NFL Draft. He was waived/injured in August 2015 and then re-signed the following summer. All together he made 30 appearances for the Steelers (15 starts), with 78 receptions for 822 yards and four receiving touchdowns. He also served as a punt returner, totaling 26 returns for 191 yards.
According to Sports-Reference.com, he had 176 career receptions at Louisville for 2,020 yards and 12 touchdowns.
As for the aforementioned Jeffrey Thomas, he will be playing for the aforementioned Kirby Wilson, who was named head coach of the Maulers on January 20, 2022. Wilson, 60, served as running backs coach on Mike Tomlin‘s Steelers staff between 2007-13.
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