No matter how tough it was, no matter how challenging, Eli Rogers kept the same positive attitude and had the same ever present smile every time you saw him last year.
Inside it was killing him that he wasn't playing football for the first time since he was a kid, but you would never know it.
"It was tough," admitted Rogers. "I've always played a full season since I was seven years old, since I was a kid. It was tough to deal with it."
Rogers was sidelined last year, spending the entire season on injured reserve with a foot injury. For the rookie, a young player just out of college, that can be a make or break challenge. He made it by sticking around his teammates, being a regular at the facility, and learning everything he could even though he wasn't on the field.
"You just have to stick with it, stay connected with the team and know that you are coming back and going to get better," said Rogers. "It helped me a lot to be around my teammates. It helped me in the sense of appreciating things more, taking care of my body because of the fact that I stayed and saw guys in the training room and how they took care of themselves. I learned how to do things the right way. I had great guys to look up to in that regard as far as Heath Miller, Antonio Brown, Ben (Roethlisberger) and all of those guys. They showed me how to do things the right way and come out every day with the same mindset of getting better. I watched a lot of film and I learned a lot from the neck up as far as defenses, coverage, things like that. It helped me a whole lot."
It's all paying off now for Rogers, who not only is competing for a roster spot, but is showing he is someone who could have an impact on the offense.
Rogers came to the Steelers as an undrafted rookie last season without a ton of fanfare. He refers to himself as an 'underdog,' something that he uses as motivation.
"Every day I come out to practice and I feel like I have something to prove, trying to get better," said Rogers. "Every time I come out in a game I feel like I have something to prove. I am always trying to get better."
And he is. In the preseason he has shown that he can be dependable. While the numbers aren't outrageous, with four catches for 39 yards against the Eagles, he is showing he is dependable making three of those catches on third down in limited playing time. He wants to keep taking advantage of every opportunity that comes his way.
"It's felt great," said Rogers. "Getting out there and being able to make plays in a stadium, in a game environment, not just practice. It felt real good.
"I just want to be consistent, come in every day, every game and be the same player, be consistent for the team." Cover guy:Receiver Antonio Brown is featured on one of the regional covers of the new Sports Illustrated for the NFL Preview issue, due on newsstands on Wednesday, Aug. 24.