Player: Markus Wheaton (WR, # 11)
College: Oregon State
Experience: 2 years
Markus Wheaton is heading into training camp as the projected starting wide receiver opposite of Antonio Brown. Wheaton has great physical skills. Last season Wheaton had an injury issue and was not very successful. Major progress will need to be shown in training camp before anyone can show more confidence in him.
When drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL draft out of Oregon State, Wheaton was known for his quickness and superb agility. His college highlights showed evidence of his play-making talent. His rookie season was hampered by finger surgery that hindered his development. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Wheaton’s pinky finger is still awkwardly bent, which doctors have suggested could very well be permanent.
The man Wheaton is expected to replace at receiver is Emmanuel Sanders. With just under 800 yards receiving and only three touchdowns Sanders was less than overwhelming in 2013. Wheaton will face pressure, but it won’t be about trying to replace someone who was a Pro Bowl receiver, because Sanders was not. But Wheaton does face stiff competition.
Lance Moore signed with Steelers in the offseason and is projected to be the No.3 receiver. Moore has starter experience and a Super Bowl ring to show for his on-field efforts in the NFL. His quickness, route running and soft hands make him a threat to start any week.
“I have been leaning on him” Wheaton said in regards to seeking advice from Moore. The heady veteran will keep Wheaton focused on learning and improving for the present and future.
When you also consider Wheaton’s talent and the circumstances surrounding him heading into training camp, he seems very much primed to take a major step in his second season. Wheaton will get many one-on-one looks with Pro Bowl receiver Brown opposite him. If Wheaton can stay healthy and out-perform his competition, he will be counted on as a major important piece in carrying the Steelers’ offense and receiving corps to the next level.
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