Steelers: Will Pittsburgh attempt to trade Markus Wheaton?

Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (11) against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (11) against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a peculiar situation on their hands when the time comes for the 2016 NFL draft. Due to trades made last year, the organization will be without their fifth and six round selections in day three.

The Steelers are a team known for refortifying their depth charts through the draft with young talent that eventually take the reigns of a starting position when the time comes for them to step up. With a lack of selections in the later rounds of the draft, Pittsburgh will have to get creative in how they go about utilizing their picks. If they wish to do so, the Steelers have the ability to make a move within their organization that could secure them more picks when the new league year begins in March.

Markus Wheaton, the Steelers’ third round selection in 2013, has established himself as a dependable receiver in Pittsburgh. Even with the dynamic duo of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant headlining the receiving corps, Wheaton isn’t just another name on the Steelers’ list of talented wideouts.

Entering his fourth year in the league at the start of the 2016 season, he has been a key piece of the Steelers’ offense at times, stepping up when Bryant was suspended at the beginning of the season, recording 200 receiving yards against Seattle’s secondary in week twelve, and filling a starting role when Brown missed the AFC Divisional game with a concussion.

The Steelers have been known as a wide receiver factory over the course of many seasons. Their ability to select receivers in any round of the draft and mold them into dangerous athletes have aided them, and the teams they have moved on to, immensely. Even with wide receiver being the least needed position on the team, the organization does not shy away from taking a wideout they believe can enhance their already loaded offense.

While his rookie season was less than stellar, Sammie Coates represents the talented depth the Steelers possess at receiver. Active for eight games in 2015, the rookie from Auburn accumulated only three receptions for 72 yards, but is seen as the next talented receiver to step up and become an important weapon in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s offensive arsenal.

Wheaton’s contract expires after the 2016 season, giving him one more year in Pittsburgh. He knows very well that the Steelers will do everything they can to extend the contracts of Brown, running back Le’Veon Bell, and offensive lineman David DeCastro….which leaves him the odd man out when the organization starts planning for the future. Although Wheaton is considered to be third on the Steelers’ depth chart, the wide receiver is talented enough to be a starter on many teams in the NFL. This is a fact that the future free agent will exploit to his advantage.

With a need for selections in this year’s draft, it is possible that the Steelers could trade Wheaton before he has a chance to leave on his own terms. The move would benefit the organization’s philosophy of rearming through the draft without completely harming the offense at the same time. The big question is: Which of the other thirty one teams in the league are in need of a wide receiver to be considered as potential trade partners?

With DeAndre Hopkins being the only viable receiver on their roster, the Houston Texans are in desperate need of immediate receiver help. They will attempt to secure a quarterback of the future through this year’s draft after their Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallett/Brandon Weeden experiment failed miserably. Arian Foster is expected to be released due to his inability to remain healthy for a long period of time, so they will definitely need some sort of outside assistance to aid their offense if they wish to repeat as AFC South champions.

The Kansas City Chiefs finally made a step in the right direction when they signed free agent Jeremy Maclin to their receiver corps in 2015, but didn’t have much beyond that in terms of receiver talent.

KC felt the sting of not having their top receiver at 100% when Maclin played injured during their divisional round playoff  game against New England, registering only two passes for 23 yards. Getting quarterback Alex Smith some help at wide receiver will go a long way in helping them return to the AFC playoff picture in 2016.

While the Texans and Chiefs are fortunate enough to have at least a number one receiver, the Los Angeles Rams do not have such a luxury. Desperate enough to bring Wes Welker out of retirement, it is clear that the organization needs to make a bold move if they wish to start filling seats in their new stadium. The organization will look to the draft to find a signal caller after Nick Foles did not prove to be a long-term answer, and must add weapons that are able to make an immediate impact on offense.

The Philadelphia Eagles have lost premiere receivers in Maclin and DeSean Jackson in a span of two years, leaving second year Jordan Matthews as their number one wideout. Philly selected Nelson Agholor in the first round of the draft last season, but his 23 receptions for 283 yards and a touchdown were quite low for a team in need of receiver talent. An experienced receiver would be just what the Eagles’ offense needs to compliment their young talent at the position.

These four teams would be prime trading partners for the Steelers to exchange Wheaton for picks in the upcoming draft but, ironically enough, the best bet for the organization would be the Eagles. After trading their 2016 fifth round draft pick for Brandon Boykin, dealing Wheaton to Philly would give them the opportunity to get back more than they lost in trades last season.

Pittsburgh would seek at least the third round pick they invested in Wheaton when they drafted him, but could get more for him. The Eagles hold nine selections in the upcoming draft, giving them some leeway in how they go about using them. Sending two draft picks in the third and fifth round to the Steelers would be a reasonable asking price for a receiver as talented and experienced as Wheaton.

The trade would give Pittsburgh selections at 25th, 58th, 77th, 89th, and 120th within the first four rounds of the draft.

Additionally, the fifth round pick from Philly, a seventh round selection received from the New York Giants for punter Brad Wing, their original final round pick, and potentially a seventh round compensatory selection for losing Brice McCain in free agency last year would give the Steelers nine selections in the draft…far bettering their chances of landing a rookie class that can start contributing now and into the future.

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While the Steelers are not an organization typically known for trading players, it would serve the best interests of the team by making a move to trade Markus Wheaton before the beginning of the draft in late April. It may not seem like the most practical option, but it is one that could benefit the Steelers for seasons to come.