What a wild season for Markus Wheaton.
It started with barely a peep. 273 yards through his first ten games. Only one notable splash play, a 72 yard touchdown catch on a mid-October night against the San Diego Chargers. It was frustrating, for you and him.
And then everything changed.
26 catches, 316 yards, and two touchdowns over the last three weeks. In his mind, the sudden 180 in production comes down to one thing: trust.
“I feel like I am starting to gain Ben’s trust more than anything. When it comes to working in the middle it’s a little tougher to gain the trust, takes a little more time. I think we have come a long way,” he told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.
Wheaton’s tape has been solid all season long, even when the numbers weren’t there, and now the stat sheet is starting to catch up. Talking to Varley, Wheaton describes the daily dialogue he and Ben Roethlisberger go through, going over plays immediately after every practice.
He makes his living over the middle. It’s not an easy way to make money, surrounded by safeties waiting to take his head off.
“You know you are going to get hit. When you expect it, it’s not as bad. The worst ones are when you don’t expect it, when it’s the last minute that you see it or feel it. Those are the worst.”
Wheaton has certainly made his fair share of difficult catches over that three week span. It’s a testament to his toughness, hands, and precise route running to find the scarce soft spots in the defense.
This outburst is putting his 2015 line on pace for what he did a year ago. Projected for the final three weeks, Wheaton will finish the year with: 39 receptions, 725 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Compare to that his 53/644/2 box score from 2014. A couple less catches, a couple more yards. All things considered, from where we were at with him just a month ago, it’s a remarkable finish to the year.