Aug 24, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (11) scores a touchdown past Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Neiko Thorpe (38) in the second half at Heinz Field. The Chiefs won the game in overtime, 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
When Mike “Sound Byte” Tomlin gave his post-game interview, he gave his usual blow-hard responses littered with the same types of “accepting the position we’re in” and “we have work to do” nonsense we have become accustomed to over the last six years. While I usually tune out what Tomlin has to say, I was nevertheless intrigued when he said that rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton would be “part of an answer” to some of the team’s current problems.
I only had one response to the head coach’s statement on the matter: “It’s about <bleeping> time, Mike.”
Although I said “Mike” when I first read his response, my frustration was more directed at offensive coordinator Todd Haley who has made the former Oregon State Beaver a “ghost” during regular season play. After Wheaton made some electric plays during the preseason and drew the praise of many veterans on Pittsburgh’s roster, the rookie has been relegated to essentially special teams duty throughout the first two weeks of the regular season.
Instead of putting the speedy pass-catcher on the field to give even a hint of a vertical threat to the offensive game plan, Haley has elected to use guys like Will Johnson, David Johnson, and David Paulson on passing downs during the first two games instead. Neither of those players are threats to catch passes more than 15 yards down the field, and none of them possess the type of speed Wheaton can bring to an offense.
Both Wheaton and Derek Moye have the speed to put pressure on opposing defenses, and the fact that both have sat in favor of Pittsburgh’s fullback and backup tight ends has been nothing short of a confusing disgrace on Haley’s part.
I for one hope Wheaton (and Moye) can become more involved in the Steelers’ offensive game-plan during the coming weeks, especially since this team is desperate for play-makers, sustained drives, and points at the moment. How much this team will turn to Wheaton this fall is still a mystery, but I only have one question for Pittsburgh’s coaching staff:
“What do you have to lose by inserting him into packages with four and five wide receivers?”
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