Elementary, My Dear Rogers - By John Smathers

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Elementary, yes. Conceptually, but it's probably not so easy to pull off.

If the Steelers are to save their fizzling season, they need Santonio 'Don't call him a sure lock' Holmes to be more involved in the passing game. If not Holmes, the Steelers need to do what they've already done for their running game (in light of Duce Staley's failure to impress) and their linebacker corps (in light of injuries to Joey Porter and James Harrison). They need to seek help elsewhere.

If the Steelers make the playoffs, they might look back on the Najeh Davenport and Chad Brown signings as two-thirds of the correction they took to get back on the right path. The team has proven in the recent past that it can fill holes and survive -- even thrive -- on depth, and they have a knack for going out and finding the players they need. But who can help the Steelers at wide receiver and be the last third of that equation?

First, we have to put ourselves in the right frame of mind. Short of giving away the store, the Steelers aren't going to pull off any trades for starting receivers currently having even halfway decent seasons. It's not like the Steelers to mortgage the future.

So remembering that, the first name that comes to mind is Charles Rogers, the somewhat troubled former Detroit Lion. And we all know the Steelers like former Detroit Lions. Just ask Kevin Colbert.

You might remember Rogers from the 2003 draft, when he was taken No. 2 overall. He has had problems since then. Rogers received his pink slip from the Lions before the season started and not without some good riddance attached. His three seasons with the Lions were lowlighted by injuries, inconsistency and a four-game league suspension in 2005 for a repeat violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. Lions team president Matt Millen didn't prevent Rogers' release, even though it hurt the team's salary-cap situation.

Not what you want to hear, right? Doesn't fit the Steelers mold, I know. But he might come relatively cheap as a free agent. The Buccaneers and the Dolphins have taken long looks at him. I don't know much about his Tampa Bay audition, but his Miami workout did not go badly, according to Miami coach Nick Saban. It wasn't spectacular either. Neither team offered him a contract. It might be a wake-up call for the former No. 2 and a sign that he might not command as much money as he wants.

Ready to hear something good? Rogers is big at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with good speed. A big-play guy that can stretch the field? Well, he averaged 14.1 yards per catch last year with only 14 receptions for 197 yards and 1 touchdown in nine games with a long of 35 yards.

Rogers entered the 2003 draft as one of the top receiver prospects of the best decade. He holds the career record at Michigan State for touchdown catches. He's second on the school's all-time receiving yards list and holds the season records in receptions, yardage and touchdown catches. Basically, Rogers replaced Plaxico Burress as the Spartans' big-play threat. He made a spectacular catch in the back of the end zone against Notre Dame in 2002 that they still talk about in East Lansing. The next year, he scored on his first two NFL catches.

And that's about it for the upside.

Rogers broke his collarbone in each of his first two seasons with the Lions. His third season, he was suspended four games for substance abuse, and the Lions' passing game ranked 26th in 2005. Headed into this season, Rogers was one of three first-round picks at wide receiver, but he didn't figure into coach Rod Marinelli's system. Then knee problems hampered him throughout camp. Rogers' stint with the Lions ended with 15 games plays, nine starts and 36 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns.

Rogers' pro career thus far has been less than stellar, but he's only 25 years old, he has the tools that made him a top draft pick and he has an apparent desire to overcome the bad attitude rap that prompted the Lions to cut ties with him. He's hired a new agent, Jason Fletcher, to help him with that latter problem. Fletcher has contacted every team in the league to convey his Roger's commitment to a comeback. But are the Steelers interested?

The Steelers haven't had a lot of luck with big receivers from Michigan State lately, but they should invite Rogers over to the South Side. After four games, Nate Washington and Cedrick Wilson have combined for 15 receptions. Unless Holmes steps up this week against the Chiefs, signing Rogers to a one-year deal at the league minimum doesn't sound too bad to me.

Wait, did I mention that he's never returned a punt in his pro career?

OK, never mind then.