Two dogs – one bone. One of Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s favorite quotes, serves as a perfect metaphor for the fight to be the second slot receiver on this team. JuJu Smith-Schuster played a majority of snaps in the slot last year, when the team went to three receivers. Diontae Johnson, Diontae Spencer, and Donte Moncrief all look to be position flexible, slot capable receivers as well. The last slot receiver, the Steelers should be deciding on will come down to two players: Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer.
Rogers and Swtizer are essentially the same type of receiver. Both can only play the slot, and both serve as punt and kick returners. In fact, the only reason Switzer is on the Steelers is thanks to Eli Rogers when he severely injured his knee in the playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars back 2018. Since Eli wasn’t available for training camp, and the other receivers were not fitting that role, Kevin Colbert decided to make a trade with the Oakland Raiders to pick up Switzer. The Steelers acquired Switzer and a 6th round draft pick* for the price of a 5th round draft pick. By swapping picks and gaining a player, the Steelers acquired the slot receiver they needed, as well as their new punt and kick returner. Ryan also showed he can carry the football as he gained 21 yards on 6 carries, making him the Swtiz-Army knife in the receiver room.
*6th round pick from Oakland Raiders was used to draft Sutton Smith LB from Northern Illinois University
Eli Rogers returned from the PUP list (physical unable to perform) and was active for the last three games of last season where he accrued 79 yards on 12 receptions. Switzer had his best NFL season last year as he gained 253 yards and a touchdown on 36 receptions.
Rogers seemed poised to become the next great Steeler receiver in 2016 when he finished the season with 594 yards and three touchdowns on 48 receptions. Eli’s yardage and receptions were 3rd most on the team while he tied tight-end Jessie James for the second most receiving touchdowns on the team.
Even though they are both the same type of receiver, there are some differences to their games. Eli Rogers has excellent hand placement, a big catch radius for his size, gets good space running crisp routes, and can break tackles with his quickness to gain yardage after the catch. Ryan Switzer plays the game a little rougher. He’s a strong blocker, uses his body well on contested catches, and runs hard as both a RB and WR, as he looks for contact and will try to go through the defender instead of around him.
Currently, this fight should go down to the wire, and I expect both receivers to have an excellent camp. I do not envy the coaches who must decide who to slot in as the last slot receiver.
Who do you think makes the cut? Switzer or Rogers? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!