On Sunday night for the Pittsburgh Steelers, wide receiver Antonio Brown merely made history in about a half-dozen ways with his 16-reception, 189-yard, two-touchdown performance. Martavis Bryant set a new career-high with the first double-digit reception game of his career. And Markus Wheaton just had a ho-hum six-reception, 62-yard, one-touchdown performance.
Therein lies the headline, that such an outing for the third-year wide receiver can now be deemed ho-hum. It has taken some time, but it looks like he may be finally settling in his niche within this offense, and Ben Roethlisberger is looking his way.
As a matter of fact, Wheaton has recorded at least 50 receiving yards now in four consecutive games. To put that into perspective, he had never gained at least 50 yards in three consecutive games previously in his career.
In fact, he had only recorded consecutive games with at least 50 yards twice prior, first during Roethlisberger’s historic two-game performance of 12 total touchdown passes, of which Wheaton caught the first two of his career.
The second occurrence came during the first two games of this season, but he was held to under 20 receiving yards in eight of the nine ensuing games, with the lone exception being the 72-yard touchdown pass that he caught against the Chargers.
It has only been since the Steelers have come out of their bye week that Wheaton had finally been able to achieve some level of consistency in terms of his production, no doubt a product of building greater rapport and trust with Roethlisberger, but also building confidence in himself.
In the first game out of the bye week, he exploded, catching a career-high nine passes and becoming only the third player in team history to record 200 receiving yards or more in a game, finishing the game with 201 yards overall. Among those nine receptions was a 69-yard touchdown pass.
He also has three touchdowns in his last four games. He had three touchdowns in total in his career heading into the bye week. He now has four touchdown receptions this season, which is twice as many as he had in 2014.
Yet another sign of an upswing in his production and usage is that he has strung together just the second pairing of four consecutive games in which he has caught at least three passes. The only other time he has done so previously was in the first four games of the 2014 season. Since then, he had only had seven games in which he caught at least three passes.
By all accounts, Wheaton is a mild-mannered and friendly young man with a strong and consistent work ethic. Just because that has not so easily resulted in concrete production in terms of statistics does not mean that he has not had the talent, or that he was not working hard enough.
It has been a process for the offense to learn how best to integrate him and to get him touches, and perhaps that has finally happened. He now has 38 receptions for 651 yards, a 17.1 yards per catch average, and four touchdowns on the season.