Markus Wheaton’s chance to shine for Steelers


NFL superstars rarely come fully formed out of the draft like Andrew Luck. More often than not, these talents wait for several years before their opportunity arrives.

Aaron Rodgers had to wait his turn behind Brett Favre for a few years. For a long time Steve Young was a benchwarmer for Joe Montana. NFL teams often don’t know what they really have on their depth chart until it’s time to shake it up.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton has a chance to step up and show what he can do in 2015, if only for a handful of games.

With Le’Veon Bell facing a two-game suspension and Martavis Bryant out for four, the first few games of Pittsburgh’s 2015 campaign offer Wheaton an opportunity to prove his ceiling is higher than being Antonio Brown’s sidekick.

We have seen several sneak previews that suggest Wheaton may become something special. Watch the footwork from Wheaton on this touchdown catch last year:

There’s not a whole lot of 24 year olds who can do that, and my experience says that it’s very difficult to teach receivers that kind of move. At this level you either have it, or you don’t.

Last season Wheaton was targeted by Ben Roethlisberger 87 times. Three players were thrown at more often: Heath Miller (88), Bell (105) and Brown (182.) Bryant was targeted 49 times. If you take Bryant and Bell out of the equation, defenses will be able to key in on Brown more than ever, which should mean that Wheaton will benefit from lighter coverage.

Will Wheaton grab the bull by the horns and command a larger role in Todd Haley’s offense?

My guess is that he is going to turn alot of heads over the next few games, particularly against San Francisco Week 2. One of the positions where the Niners were hit hardest this offseason is cornerback. Their two starters from last year both left in free agency and the front office inexplicably chose not to draft a new one.

A burner like Wheaton thrives on weak corners not being able to keep up with him along the sidelines for an extended period of time. Pittsburgh’s Week 3 opponent, the Rams are also thin in the secondary.

Add it all up and Wheaton may have a huge month. If he puts up the kinds of numbers that I think he can, he’ll not only see more balls from Roethlisberger, but more dollars when his rookie contract is up.

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