It was fair to project Markus Wheaton for 65-70 catches this season.
Instead, he’s on pace for just 26. That isn’t all Wheaton’s fault and as Mike Tomlin pointed out in his usual Tueday presser, can be explained by a variety of reasons.
“It’s all interrelated. If Heath is catching 10 balls, that means the middle of the field is open, that means they’re primarily rolled up outside, which means there could be less opportunity outside. I’m not displeased with the quality of Wheaton’s work. He’s not getting as many opportunities as he’d like, or we’d like for him to have, but some of that stuff is outside of his and our control.”
The four game stretch without Ben Roethlisberger is the number one reason for the low production level. Wheaton, like the rest of the receiving group, suffered. He has been productive in the few opportunities received and actually leads the Steelers in yards per reception with 19.8 per catch. That would rank second in the entire league but he is currently two receptions shy of qualifying.
Wheaton has improved on doing the little things well. He’s getting upfield quicker off the catch, something Tomlin challenged him to do before the year, is working back to the ball, and continuing to improve as a blocker. For his sake, hopefully he’ll get to have one marquee game that can put his production a little closer to what was expected.