Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton has had an up and down season, and perhaps not the debut starting performance that he was hoping for, even though it started off quite well. Through 14 games, he still has just two touchdowns, while rookie Martavis Bryant has seven on his own.
However, against the Atlanta Falcons last week, Wheaton had a fairly strong performance, and perhaps one of his better games on the road, in which he has had more struggles. He seemed to be more on the same page as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which had been an issue during the middle portion of the season.
Over the course of the season, the wide receiver roles behind Antonio Brown have become more compartmentalized, and Wheaton no longer plays 90 percent or so of the snaps, which began with the activation of Bryant earlier in the year. But he has still found ways to contribute, and had a few nice catches in the last game.
The first of those catches came toward the end of the first quarter as the Steelers threatened to cross into the red zone. On a second and two play, Wheaton took advantage of the off man coverage and cut a corner route to the sideline, showing good body control to keep his feet in bounds through the process of the reception.
Late in the second quarter, with the Steelers looking to advance past midfield, on second and 10, Wheaton shifted from outside the numbers to close to up against the line prior to the snap. The Steelers used crossing routes to scheme Wheaton open over the middle of the field, but the impressive part of the play is that he basically had to pick the pass off of his back thigh. He did so virtually in stride and was able to advance the ball.
The Steelers opened the fourth quarter already driving, having crossed midfield and reached the Falcons’ 43-yard line. Wheaton lined up in the slot to the right, and once he found the linebacker coming in, he was able to turn in and open out into the soft spot of the zone for a 30-yard gain, with relative ease.
Wheaton added another quality reception midway through the fourth quarter, coming up with a key conversion on third and seven while doing so, which helped drain extra time off the clock right after the Falcons had made it a one-score game.
The play was similar to that of the second examined above, with Wheaton crossing through the middle of the field, only this time the pass came later in the route, and Roethlisberger did a better job of hitting him in stride. It allowed him to gain 13 yards and a first down.