Eli Rogers walked down the hall at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, happy to be doing so without the aid of the crutches he had been using since the 2017 season came to an end.
"No crutches. They are gone," proclaimed Rogers. "It feels great to know I made it through the first phase of this thing. I am ready to head into the second phase with a new mindset, new purpose, but the same work ethic."
The 'first phase' Rogers is referring to is his rehab from an ACL injury suffered in the team's AFC Divisional Round game against Jacksonville on Jan. 14. Rogers suffered the injury late in the fourth quarter, and when it happened, he had no idea how bad it was.
"I was down on the field and telling the athletic trainers, 'Come on guys pick me up, I am on TV right now. I can't be down here this long,'" said Rogers, laughing that he didn't want to look weak by being down too long. "I was down, and I got up, and I could feel it. But I was like just get me off the field. I started walking and couldn't put pressure on it. I thought something might be wrong, but I was like I am good.
"I didn't know it was torn. I didn't think anything was that wrong."
It wasn't until the next day when the full damage was revealed that a stunned Rogers fully grasped the extent of the injury.
"It was like what the heck. What. I did that? The ACL and the meniscus some too,'" said Rogers. "As soon as I got injured I thought I am not injured. Then I got that news. It was like, wow."
Rogers' offseason plans quickly changed. On tap was surgery, followed by rehab that he has been doing on a regular basis with the team's athletic training staff.
"It's going great," said Rogers. "They are saying I am ahead of schedule. I am coming in every day and getting better, mentally too. I push myself every day. It's tough in the offseason, you want guys around and camaraderie and the energy, it's always great to be around other people. They motivate you. But I have worked on my own before, and I don't mind that. I train by myself.
"I am blessed to be here. There is nothing I can complain about. I am good."
Rogers said there is no timetable for his return yet, as recovery can take up to six months, but he does have a goal in mind.
"I should be ready by camp," said Rogers. "I keep seeing progress. When I come in here to the facility, (head athletic trainer) John Norwig knows I am going to work and I like working. I am always trying to reach a point. I ask him when people normally bend a knee 90 degrees out of surgery. He will tell me, and my goal is to be a week or two ahead of that. I am always trying to be better. I listen to them and go from there. The first phase they said don't bend your knee or walk on it. Now I can bend it and put pressure on it. I have goals. Things I can succeed and grow in."
This week, without the crutches, Rogers was able to take it to another level, something that gives him the motivation he needs.
"I rode the bike. I got my motion going in the bike, my range of motion," said Rogers, who is set to become a restricted free agent on March 14. "I did the arc trainer. Then I did the blood flow restriction machine for the knee. Then I walked straight working on going from my heels to my toes. Then I lifted.
"I understand how important it is to take care of my body. This is exciting being able to do these things. When I was doing the one machine, I was like my knee is about to crack and that was a good thing. I am good. I am blessed."