Markus Wheaton’s Performance a Good Sign for Steelers

It’s probably bad form to celebrate a huge individual performance that’s accompanied by a team-loss, but as it pertains to Steelers third-year wide-out Markus Wheaton, it would be hard to blame him if he was at least a little excited about his historic day against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.

  • In Pittsburgh’s otherwise depressing 39-30 loss, Markus Wheaton pulled in nine passes for 201 yards and a 69-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that put his team ahead for the final time.

The Seahawks’ vaunted secondary, led by cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, was determined to shut-down the outside routes that are normally the domain of Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown and second-year man Martavis Bryant; this may have seemed like sound strategy, considering the career-resume of Brown alone, but it left the middle of the field open for Wheaton, who took full-advantage from his slot-position.

  • Again, it’s bad form to celebrate your personal accomplishes following a loss.

But when you’re trying to establish your career as a receiver in the NFL, and the opportunities have been pretty scarce, it’s nice to put such a game on your resume.

After being picked in the third round out of Oregon State in the 2013 NFL Draft, Wheaton was quickly embraced and welcomed as the heir apparent to the just departed Mike Wallace. However, thanks to injuries and just plain inexperience, Wheaton was limited to six catches for 64 yards in his rookie year. Wheaton performed much better in 2014, starting 11 games and catching 53 passes for 644 yards and two touchdowns. However, not many people noticed. Why? The charging locomotive that was the rookie Martavis Bryant, who wasn’t activated until Week 7 but quickly made up for lost time by catching 26 passes for 549 yards and an astounding eight touchdowns in just 10 games.

This season, despite Bryant missing the first four weeks while serving a drug suspension, the opportunities weren’t exactly there for Wheaton during the first 10 games; he was only targeted 32 times and had just 16 catches for 273 yards.

  • It didn’t help that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed a month with an MCL sprain.

Sunday in Seattle, when he set a record for most receiving yards by an opposing player at CenturyLink Field, Wheaton was targeted 13 times and couldn’t have done much more with all of those looks.

Moving forward, not only should Wheaton’s performance against the Seahawks be a nice confidence-boost and a reminder to him and the fans that he, too, has a fine skill-set; it should bode well for the Steelers offense, as it now may have another prime receiving target that will make its air attack all the more explosive and unstoppable.

 

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