With the annual NFL trade deadline now right around corner, we are starting to see the usual speculation as to which players currently on the Pittsburgh Steelers might be shipped in and out of town prior to Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 4 p.m. ET.
On Thursday, ESPN.com asked each of their NFL Nation reporters to pick one player from all 32 teams who could draw interest in a potential trade. For the Steelers, Jeremy Fowler picked wide receiver Markus Wheaton and below is his reasoning for that:
One of the Steelers’ most productive playmakers late last season is experiencing a turbulent contract year. He has missed four games with a nagging shoulder injury, and he had several drops in Week 3. With four catches for 51 yards this season and a $1.67 million salary, Wheaton could be an appealing option for a team that is one receiver away from offensive success, and perhaps one would commit a late-round pick for his services over the stretch run. His shoulder isn’t a long-term issue, and Wheaton, when in rhythm, is a reliable No. 3 receiver with good downfield speed. Perhaps he could use a change, too.
While Fowler’s suggestion looks decent on paper, he is just a few reasons why Wheaton is unlikely to be traded by next Tuesday evening.
Depth reason: While Wheaton certainly hasn’t contributed much of anything so far this season due to him missing several games with a shoulder injury, he does have experience playing both inside and outside. Keep in mind that fellow Steelers wide receivers Antonio Brown (quad) and Sammie Coates (finger) both entered the bye week banged-up and second-year wide receiver Eli Rogers (coach’s decision) was benched in Week 7 due to him being late to a practice walkthrough. While wide receiver Cobi Hamilton has stepped up the last few weeks after being promoted from the practice squad, he’s mostly been used on the outside. You can never have too much inexpensive experienced depth at any position and Wheaton certainly fits that description.
No value: Supposing there was a team looking to trade for Wheaton, one would think they wouldn’t want to give up more than a sixth-round draft pick for him. After all, he has missed several games so far this season and only has one full year of production under his belt. Also, keep in mind that Wheaton is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season is over so teams aren’t going to want to give up too much for a player who might ultimately only be an 8-game rental.
Compensatory formula value later: Even though there’s a good chance Wheaton will wind up wearing a different uniform in 2017, the Steelers still figure to receive some sort of compensation for him. Remember, should Wheaton sign a free agent contract with another team prior to June, his loss should factor into the compensatory draft pick formula for 2018.
In conclusion, while several crazy trades have happened in the past right before the annual deadline, I will be surprised if the Steelers wind up dealing Wheaton. Fortunately, we don’t have long to wait to find out if that’s the case.