It was a tale of two halves. For the first half of the season, Markus Wheaton disappeared. His own Houdini act. In the second half, he was stellar. And the receiver credits that to getting on the same page with his quarterback.
“We got on the same page as the season went on,” Wheaton told Ray Fittapaldo of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “We learned how to communicate with each other, more so me communicating with him and giving him what he wants. I’m learning how to just be who I need to be when it comes to what Ben wants me to be.”
From the start of the year to Week 10, Wheaton’s numbers were abysmal: 16 catches for 273 yards and a score. From the bye week on, it was a totally different player: 28 catches for 476 yards and four scores.
It began with a 201 yard outburst against the Seattle Seahawks and a touchdown and he had at least 50 yards in four of the final five games.
Dave Bryan posted the nine explosive plays Wheaton had last season. And just as we talked about on last week’s podcast, Wheaton finished with the most yards per catch on the team, 17 per catch, ranking ninth league-wide. His deep ball ability, his 4.45 speed and strong explosion numbers coming out of college, is an asset that has been underrated by fans and perhaps underutilized by the Steelers.
Some of the latter has been a result of him playing primarily in the slot, limiting his route tree. With Martavis Bryant’s suspension, Wheaton could have more chances to play on the outside and expand his route tree, increasing his viability as a vertical threat.
Last season gave us glimpses of that, a stark contrast to his 2014 number of barely more than 12 yards per catch. It’s been a strong progression and one he should continue in 2016, a prime opportunity for his best season yet.