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Rogers: 'I never take it for granted'

LATROBE, Pa. - It's become a daily ritual for Eli Rogers.

Before he takes the field each day, he grabs the helmet sitting in his locker and puts it on, ready to go to work.

When practice ends, he goes to the sideline and grabs the helmet again, putting it on as part of the work day has come to a close.

The helmet, though, is different than what he is wearing when out there catching passes on the field. It's not even close.

Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers 4th day of training camp.

Rogers reported to training camp wearing a white construction hard hat, work jumpsuit and steel-toed boots. And every day since, that hard hat has been a staple.

"It just puts me in a mindset of who I am, which is a hard worker, coming here to work hard and represent the hard workers of the world," said Rogers. "It's about the steel workers, construction workers, electricians. It's about guys giving us light and energy and the steel business because we are in Steelers Nation. I am not getting complacent. I am out here to work. I want to be radiant."

Ben Roethlisberger didn't call Rogers 'radiant' in an interview with Ike Taylor for NFL Network, but he did have glowing things to say about the third-year receiver.

"I'm excited," said Roethlisberger. "Not a rookie last year, but first year playing and really did some good things, came on strong late in the year. I spent a lot of time in the offseason with him, him individually looking at film of how he can be better.

"I see so much growth in him and I'm excited about what he brings in the slot. Quickness, toughness, a guy that can open against linebackers with his speed and quickness and can use his size. I know that sounds silly with a smaller guy, but he's got the strength to get open against smaller guys. I'm really excited to see the growth that he can bring to this team."

Rogers' goal is to prove him right and bring all of that to the offense on a regular basis. He had 48 receptions for 594 yards and three touchdowns last season, his first year playing after battling an injury his rookie year. He wants more this year.

"I offer the ability to go over the middle," said Rogers. "Inside the hashes I am going to win every time. We have the best wide receiver in the world on the outside. We have other great receivers on the outside. Hopefully we get Martavis (Bryant) back soon. We have Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Landry Jones. We have lots of receivers outside. And with my ability, I think we can win every down.

"It's very humbling to have that kind of talent as a group. It creates a great atmosphere for us to come out here and make each other better every day."

Rogers believes the unit can be so strong first and foremost because he believes in himself. He wears a gold chain constantly with the word 'Believe' on it. And it just so happens that 'Eli' falls right in the middle of believe.

"I have a lot of belief in myself," said Rogers. "It's very important in life in general. Knowing my life story, where I come from, and what guys where I come from have to go through, you have to believe in yourself at all times. You have to believe whatever God has given you, you can do. That is why I wear the necklace because I believe in myself and God."

Where Rogers came from isn't a place you want to go visit. Sure, his hometown is listed as Miami, Florida. But it's not the same Miami that tourists flock to so they can enjoy the beaches and beauty of it.

Rogers is from Liberty City, outside of Miami, and a place many try to escape rather than visit.

"Liberty City…it's over the bridge. It's not on South Beach," said Rogers. "It's never on television, only on the news."   

It's a place where he and teammate Antonio Brown were lucky to get out of unscathed, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

"The chance to get out of there is slim to none," said Rogers. "I was fortunate to get out. Coming from that area is really tough. All you see is violence, drugs...the worst of the worst. It's tough to keep a positive mindset. To get out of it it's tough. To have your own vision to get out is tough. It's heavy. You are a kid trying to get out and succeed, and it's tough to do it."

The things that Rogers has seen are unimaginable to most. It makes you shudder.

"I have seen some of everything," said Rogers. "A good friend of mine got killed. I went to the scene, and he was hanging over a gate, his face almost off. He was killed right there.

"I saw a lot. That is just one thing. There was a lot more. With the right guidance and mindset you can get out. I was blessed."

It's easy to understand why Rogers believes in himself when you hear his story, when you understand what he overcame. And you understand his work ethic, his mentality. He knows he is living a dream, a dream so many who came from Liberty City will never experience.

"It's a blessing out here," said Rogers. "I never take it for granted. I am blessed to be here. I am fortunate to make it here. God is gracious and amazing. I am blessed to be here."

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