What if I told you that former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton was among the greatest wide receivers over the course of the past decade? You would laugh, of course, I’m sure. Now, what if I said instead that he was a part of one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL over the course of the past decade?
Given that he played his ball alongside Antonio Brown, who is among the leading candidates on the shortlist for the greatest wide receiver of the 2010s, that’s much more believable. And according to Pro Football Focus, it’s true. Based on single-season combined WAR (Wins Above Replacement), Brown and Wheaton during 2015 were the second-best wide receiver duo during the 2010s.
2015 was Wheaton’s third season after originally being selected in the third round in 2013 out of Oregon. He did not contribute much as a rookie, just six receptions, but moved into a starting role the following year, even if he gave ground to a rookie Martavis Bryant. In 2015, he played in all 16 games, but started eight.
But he made a big jump, going from averaging 12.2 yards per reception to 17.0 yards per reception. He caught fewer passes than the year before—44 to 53—but produced more than 100 additional yards, finishing with a career-high mark of 749. He also caught five touchdown passes, of the eight in total that he had for his career.
The highlight of his season was also the highlight of his career, and it was a game in which he had one catch. But it was a 72-yard catch-and-run from Michael Vick against the San Diego Chargers that helped the Steelers mount a comeback that was culminated by a walk-off Le’Veon Bell touchdown run out of the Wildcat.
That season also featured his huge game against the Seattle Seahawks, catching nine passes on 13 targets for 201 yards and a score. This was against a starting secondary including Richard Sherman, DeShawn Shead, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor. Of course, they lost that game.
Oh yeah, Brown was pretty good that year, too. He set franchise records—that he had already broken himself the year before—in 2015 with 136 receptions and 1834 yards, with 10 touchdown receptions. He averaged a career-high 9.5 yards per target that season on 193 targets (Wheaton, in comparison, had 79 targets).
The only duo to top them for Pro Football Focus was Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb for the Green Bay Packers in 2014. That year, Nelson caught 98 passes for 1519 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Nelson caught 91 passes for 1287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Frankly, I can’t tell you when’s the last time two teammates caught 90-plus passes for 1200 or more yards and 10-plus touchdowns in the same year.