When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers this past offseason, most of the talk and enthusiasm has been centered on Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. While both are very deserving of the praise they have received over the course of the last several months, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t want everyone to forget about his other pass catcher, third-year player Markus Wheaton.
“I really believe, to me, that Markus Wheaton is our breakout player of the year,” said Roethlisberger in a Thursday interview with SiriusXM Radio. “And I hate put it out there, because people are going to watch him, but I want that.
“I want him to have that pressure, because when we’re in two wide receivers, he’s our No. 2 and we’re asking him to play outside. And when we go three wide receivers, we’re asking him to move inside. So he’s playing multiple positions and it’s new for him. He’s always been an outside guy and we’re asking him to play in the slot when we have three wide receivers and that’s a completely different ballgame.”
Lost somewhere between Brown’s league leading season last year and the emergence of Bryant and his long catches and eight touchdowns, sits Wheaton, the Steelers former third-round draft pick out of Oregon State. Silently, Wheaton caught 53 passes for 644 yards and two touchdowns in 2014 after only catching six balls for 64 yards during his rookie year.
While Wheaton did have his own breakout season of sorts last season, he still needs to improve in several areas moving forward and one of those areas is his ability to pick up more yards after the catch. That’s something head coach Mike Tomlin was on him about during the offseason sessions and we’ll see if he’s able to improve that stat this year now that he’ll also see time in the slot in three wide receiver sets.
“I just want to get better in all areas,” Wheaton said recently, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.
Roethlisberger continued on with his praise of Wheaton, who is very soft spoken and hard not to root for.
“I think he’s doing an amazing job with it and he’s such a good kid, hard worker and he wants to be great wherever he plays,” Roethlisberger said.