2017 Offseason Questions: Could WR Uncertainty Keep Wheaton In Pittsburgh?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

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 offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Could Markus Wheaton stay if Martavis Bryant is not reinstated?

The Pittsburgh Steelers were believed by many to have entered the 2016 season with one of the deepest stables of wide receivers of any team in the league. That was especially the case after second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates began to emerge in the early portions of the season.

That depth theory was tested throughout the season due to injuries and eventually saw players like Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers moving from the practice squad at the start of the year to playing key roles in critical games during the winter months.

One of the monkey wrenches thrown in the plans was the injury to Markus Wheaton. He was supposed to be the team’s top wide receiver across from Antonio Brown before his season was derailed by a shoulder injury. He was limited to participation in only a couple of games and struggled at times even in that.

The former third-round draft pick is now slated to hit unrestricted free agency. But the Steelers’ wide-receiver depth right now is not exactly totally assured. That largely hinges on the future of Martavis Bryant and how his suspension is handled in the coming months. The fingers of Coates are also a crucial point.

The uncertainty and the lack of anything resembling a breakout season could well keep the price down on Wheaton as he plies his wares to the highest bidder. I tend to believe that his case is not as strong as the one that Emmanuel Sanders was able to make given the way that his final season went. Wheaton really only has about half a season’s worth of above-average play.

Wheaton would not be back under ideal circumstances because there wouldn’t even be room for him on the roster. Many seemingly would not even welcome him back. But the Steelers may well find their wide receiver position in less than an ideal state a couple months from now and that could push them to bid to keep the four-year veteran in-house.

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