Remember Markus Wheaton? Unfortunately he has ended up proving to be more forgettable than what the Pittsburgh Steelers had in mind when they used a third-round draft pick on him in 2013. He entered his second season as a starter following the departure of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in free agency, but he was bypassed by then-rookie Martavis Bryant by midseason.
Following four fairly underwhelming seasons in Pittsburgh, the final in 2016 plagued by a shoulder injury that ultimately landed him on injured reserve after only marginal contributions, he signed a contract in free agency with the Bears, and it seems he will make his season debut against his former team today.
As I’ve recapped last week, this offseason hasn’t been the best for former Steelers—though as one reader has pointed out to me, Terence Garvin has entered the starting lineup for the Seahawks—and Wheaton’s first several months in Chicago definitely could have gone better.
The fifth-year player kicked things off with an emergency appendectomy to start training camp, and then as soon as he returned to the field after a couple of weeks, he broke his finger. He is only now finally working his way back, and has gotten hardly any real practice time in.
Truthfully, I will Wheaton all the success in the world whenever he is not playing the Steelers. He always struck me as a good guy who struggled to stay on the same page with Ben Roethlisberger early on, but who then was quickly overshadowed by Bryant’s explosive potential, and then ultimately undone by injuries.
I thought he could have had a big season last year, with Bryant suspended for the entire season, and it would have been huge for him as well, given that he was in a contract year, but it ended up being something of a disaster. He missed the first two games because of the injury and then came back to drop three passes.
He did have one touchdown of something like 30 yards, and it was a nice play, but really the only highlight within his three games of limited action. The opportunity to play a major role passed him by.
But perhaps he could find one now with the Bears. They already have Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, their starting wide receivers, on injured reserve. Kendall Wright is the only other real threat that they have at the position.
I’m not sure what his level of conditioning is, but in terms of situational opportunity, I would imagine that he could have the chance to log a decent amount of snaps today. And the good news is that Artie Burns and Joe Haden (formerly of Cleveland) will have had plenty of experience going up against him.