Will Markus Wheaton See More Playing Time?


Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Four snaps, ladies and gentlemen.

Rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton recorded only four snaps of playing time on the offensive side of the ball during last weekend’s game at Heinz Field.

With the way that Wheaton played during the preseason (nine catches, 139 yards, one touchdown), I assumed that he would be much more of a factor in Pittsburgh’s offensive plans at this point in the regular season. Although Wheaton’s pinky injury and subsequent surgery sidelined him for an entire month this fall, the fact that he has been relegated to the bench recently has made little to no sense to me.

I would definitely like to see Wheaton receive more playing time during Pittsburgh’s final three regular season games.

The idea that Wheaton has been forced to sit behind passing game non-factors like Matt Spaeth and Michael Palmer in recent weeks has been nothing short of laughable. Why he has sat in favor of those two and extra offensive linemen outside of the red zone is confusing, and I hope that Pittsburgh’s (hopefully) new offensive coordinator will find more ways to put the team’s most explosive personnel on the field.

In my humble opinion, it would also benefit the Steelers’ brass to throw in the towel with Emmanuel Sanders at this point. While the Steelers’ coaching staff apparently believe that Emmanuel Sanders is “better” than Wheaton according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I can only ask the following question:

With postseason contention more of a fantasy than anything else, shouldn’t Pittsburgh’s coaching staff should be focused on playing guys who will actually be with the team next fall?

Remember, Sanders will likely command a high price tag as an unrestricted free agent this spring, and the cap-strapped Steelers will probably not be able to afford him with guys like Jason Worilds set to enter the UFA market as well. Wheaton on the other hand is under contract and any extra experience the rookie receives could help him greatly in his second season with the team.

Seriously, what good does it do for a 5-8 team to continue to plug an inconsistent, butter-fingered, pending UFA like Sanders into their lineup while a rookie with promise gathers splinters? Heaven forbid that Wheaton develops some sort of regular season rapport with his signal-caller at this stage of his rookie season.

Thoughts on Sanders aside, it would still be nice to see some of Pittsburgh’s younger players receive some extended work over these final three regular season games. Whether the veteran-loving coaching staff likes it or not, guys like Wheaton, Shamarko Thomas, Jarvis Jones, etc. are the future of the franchise. I just hope that they are able to take advantage of their chances to shine when they finally arrive.

Of course, I fully expect Pittsburgh’s coaches to maintain the status quo when it comes to personnel down the stretch.

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