Will Steelers WR Markus Wheaton Outdo Mike Wallace’s Rookie Season?

By Jeremy Hritz

Excitement has been generated by the Pittsburgh Steelers selection of wide receiver Markus Wheaton in the third round. The 22-year-old rookie from Oregon State has been compared to both Mike Wallace and Hines Ward, though he has yet to get a rep in OTAs as he is still attending college classes.

In Sunday\’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Alan Robinson discusses the prospects of Wheaton becoming a productive player in his first season, and he references some high praise that the rookie was the target of from NFL Network analyst, Daniel Jeremiah. Jeremiah calls Wheaton a receiver that is “capable of doing everything” and that he has the “kind of toughness Ward had when he played against Baltimore.” While we definitely want to reserve our judgment before we anoint Wheaton the next Ward, if he can even come close to Ward’s production, the Steelers will have scored a win in the 2013 draft.

Historically, the wide receiver position in the NFL is one where rookies don’t necessarily flourish, though there are exceptions (Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin, and A.J. Green all had 1,000+ yard rookie seasons). Being a third round pick, Wheaton doesn’t have the same expectations facing him that Moss, Boldin, or Green did, but is he be capable of producing in a similar way?

Over Wheaton’s career with the Beavers, he caught 227 passes for 2994 yards and 16 touchdowns, recording his most productive season in his senior year, catching 91 balls for 1244 yards and 11 touchdowns. When looking at his receiving statistics from season to season at Oregon State, it is evident that Wheaton improved from year to year, increasing his production by at least 18 catches per season. Wheaton also demonstrated an improvement in his yards per catch over his career, climbing from 11.1 YPC in his freshmen season to 13.7 YPC in his senior year. If we can read anything into his college numbers, it is that he consistently improves. If Wheaton can show continuous improvement in Pittsburgh, he may just be the gem he is being touted to be.

Another element of Wheaton’s game that is worth noting is his ability to run the football. During his four-year career, Wheaton had 83 carries that resulted in 631 yards and five touchdowns. This is the type of versatility that Mike Tomlin puts such a high value on, and there is no doubt he will try to take advantage of it in 2013.

So what type of numbers should we expect from Wheaton in his rookie season, one in which he has yet to get practice repetitions with his teammates? While it may be too much to expect a 1000-yard season, anywhere between 500-700 receiving yards would be laudable.

In Wallace’s first season with the Steelers, he caught 39 passes for 756 yards and six touchdowns. With Steelers fans eager to forget about Wallace, Wheaton should set his target to eclipse those numbers.

Your turn, what type of production are you expecting from Wheaton in his rookie season? Will he trump Wallace, or fall short?

  • dgh57

    Having Bell at RB and with our running game improving hopefully through this new zone blocking scheme it should open up the passing game!! So I think he has a solid year: around north of 50 catches and north of 700 yards!

  • lefnor

    He can beat Cotchery (strictly a slot WR, too slow), Justin Brown or Plaxico (only RZ target, imo he’ll be outside of the final 53) for the 3rd receiver job. Then he will accumulate Wallace’s yards.
    Only a (healthy) Breaston sign would be against it.

  • 2443scott

    well from what i saw and heard from this guy hes a all around wr where wallace wasnt which means he has the chance to get good yardage this season and will give ben more choices to throw to markus and not just one direction down field he be able to come across middle like hines did and make def defend the middle as well as downfield which should open more catches for other wrs too …plus his hands are better then wallaces…..

  • JC

    My prediction : 40 rec. 500 yards 3 TD.

    I believe by the end of this season Wheaton will become the #3 WR on the depth chart. He may potentially catch more balls than Wallace did his rookie season, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll match Wallace’s 19.0 + yards per catch or 6 touchdowns. However, in the long run I think Wheaton is capable of becoming a better overall WR than Wallace if he’s as diverse and tough as this article says he is.

  • Michael Mazanowski

    I can see him having 35 receptions, 500 total yards (450 receiving and 50 yards rushing), and 4 TDs (3 receiving and 1 rushing ) as a rookie! He will fall short of Wallace’s stats but its because AB and ES are going to have a big season statistically for Pitt.

  • Jason White

    Its too early to tell just yet. Really it depends where he starts on the depth chart and I guess where he ends up on the depth chart as well. Could beat out Cotchery for the number 3 spot from the start or he could open the season as the number 4 and eventually earn more playing time as the season progresses.

  • That and the fact BA was the OC during Wallace’s rookie year makes it so hard to predict. Wheaton appears to be the whole package..We will see soon.

  • Kolie Oak

    My prediction by the end of the season… (baring no injuries)
    1. Brown
    2. Wheaton
    3. Sanders/Plex
    4. Cotchery/Breaston
    Wheaton will end up with 65/920

  • Ahmad

    I think it all depends on if he can beat out Cotchery for the 3rd spot. If he can, then I agree that 500-700 yards isn’t out of the question as well as maybe 3-4 TD’s.