If you remember back to last year at about this same time, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made it known to wide receiver Markus Wheaton that he would like to see him do more when it came to him getting more yards after the catch. On Tuesday, Wheaton was asked if that’s still a point of emphasis this year and the audio of that interview was played Wednesday morning on Steelers Nation Radio.
“It is,” said Wheaton, who had 44 catches for 749 yards last season. “I think it’s stepping out of hand tackles or arm tackles. Out here, it’s jersey pulling and there was a play early in camp [OTA practices] where we were doing seven shots in the red zone and there was a slight jersey pull that kept me from catching the ball. Ever since then he’s [Tomlin] been on me about it. So it’s just about stepping out of those minor things that could keep us, in that case, from scoring a touchdown.”
Wheaton was then asked how he needs to go about achieving that.
“It’s all strength, it’s hand fighting, it’s just a lot of things that it depends on the situation, obviously,” said Wheaton, the team’s former third round draft pick out of Oregon State.
According to stats kept last season by ESPN.com, Wheaton averaged 3.70 yards after the catch in 2015. In order to give that stat some perspective, fellow Steelers wide receivers Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown averaged 7.00 and 4.19 yards respectively after the catch in 2015, according to that same source. I’ts probably also worth noting that 55 of the 163 yards after the catch that Wheaton reportedly registered last season came on two catches and both culminated in scores.
Wheaton is now in the final year of his rookie contract and should he ultimately put together at least a 50-reception season and increase his yards after the catch average in 2016, it will not only help the Steelers offense, but his own upcoming free agent value as well.