2016 South Side Questions: How Bad Is Wheaton’s Shoulder?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: What is going on with wide receiver Markus Wheaton and his recurring shoulder injury?

I think by this point it seems obvious that Markus Wheaton’s shoulder injury may be more than he thinks it is, considering the fact that he has already sat out four of the Steelers’ first seven games, in a year in which he was supposed to solidify himself as a solid number two wide receiver heading into free agency next year.

Prior to the season opener, Wheaton guaranteed that he would play. He did not. For the following game, he practiced fully on Thursday before being limited on Friday, and then did not play, even though he said after the game that it wasn’t because of his shoulder.

But his shoulder is obviously still an issue, given that he has missed the past two games because of it. And I’m really not even sure how long he has been dealing with the injury, because it dates back at least to training camp. He only participated in the Steelers’ third preseason game, and he certainly is not at the level of player who would only play in the warm-up game. If he were healthy enough, he would have seen more preseason action.

Given the fact that the Steelers are dealing with Sammie Coates’ fractured finger, which also appears to be hindering him more than he or they expected it to—and whatever reason it was that Eli Rogers did not play a single snap on Sunday—this is a pretty big concern.

Wheaton may not be anybody’s favorite, and he has really struggled through this season already—he had three drops in his first game, including one that should have been a touchdown, though he does have a touchdown on the year—but he was supposed to be an important piece of this offense.

It looked like they had the options to replace him, but there are too many players dealing with injuries right now. If Wheaton comes out of the bye week still dealing with a shoulder issue, and Coates still unproductive because of his finger, the offense is going to be in trouble.

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