Expectations For Steelers Rookie WR Markus Wheaton In 2013 Need To Be Tempered

Marc Sessler of NFL.com wrote on Friday that Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Marcus Wheaton “has a chance to see plenty of playing time on passing downs” in 2013, which leads one to believe that the Oregon State product has a chance to be mighty productive in only his first year in the league. While I enjoy Sessler\’s optimism, expectations for Wheaton in 2013 should be tempered quite a bit.

For starters, only 10 Steelers wide receivers have had more than 30 receptions during their rookie season in the history of the franchise and only four, Troy Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Antwaan Randle El and Louis Lipps have managed to crack the 40 reception mark during that same span of time.

Mike Wallace managed to catch 39 passes during his rookie season, but the Steelers had no choice but to put him on the field as a third receiver right from the start, because the only other options at that time were Limas Sweed and Shaun McDonald. Wallace tallied 638 offensive snaps during his rookie season as a result of lack of competition, and that included him playing 28 or more snaps in every single game that year.

Unless Wheaton beats out veteran Jerricho Cotchery in training camp, which is very unlikely to happen, he will at best be the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart to start the season. He could even be fifth on depth chart to start the season should Plaxico Burress also make the 53 man roster.

After the first quarter of the season, baring injuries of course, Wheaton will be doing well to jump ahead of Cotchery on the depth chart. However, even if he should accomplish that feat, out of the 1,023 non-penalty plays run by the Steelers offense in 2012, only 545 of them featured personnel groupings with three or more wide receivers and only 12 of those plays included four receivers on the field at the same time. In addition, of those 545 plays, only 379 of them were passes.

Emmanuel Sanders, who is now the Steelers No. 2 wide receiver now that Wallace is gone, managed to register 490 snaps of playing time on offense during his rookie season in 2010 and that only equated to 28 catches on 49 targets for 376 yards and two touchdowns. Wheaton will be doing well to see that much playing time as a rookie, so 30 catches definitely appears to be his ceiling as a result. If he exceeds that mark, it likely means that either Sanders or Antonio Brown missed considerable time due to injury.

The future certainly is bright for Wheaton, but I think you can clearly see that we shouldn\’t expect much out of him until 2014, when he will at worst be a full-time No. 3 wide receiver depending on what happens contractually with Sanders.

Top 10 Steelers Rookie Wide Receivers 1933-2012

1Troy Edwards1999221-131666171411.70544.6
2Santonio Holmes2006221-251644982416.82251.5
3Antwaan Randle El2002232-621604748910.40230.6
4Louis Lipps1984221-231484586019.11961.4
5Mike Wallace2009233-841643975619.38647.3
6Charles Johnson1994221-171693857715.18336.1
7Henry Minarik1951248-921103545913.11141.7
8Jimmy Orr19582325-2911203391027.58775.8
9Ron Shanklin1970222-281403069123.03449.4
10Dave L. Smith1970238-1841403045815.27232.7

  • Paul

    NFL writers are ridiculously uninformed. They just write stuff just to put something out there

  • Randy Neff

    Wheaton will dictate how many snaps he gets. If he’s a quick learner, he will see plenty of snaps on offense. At the same time that doesn’t mean we’re looking at big stats from him either.
    The NFL is all about matchups and I see Wheaton having a much better chance of taking advantage of those mismatches than Cotchery. I see the ball being spread around a great deal, so we may not see anyone on offense lighting it up. Bell has the best chance outside of Ben, who I think is going to have a great year.

  • Steves

    Wheaton will have his share of opportunities this year. With him missing the OTA’s it has set him back a bit. By mid season he should have the route running down and will not start unless there is an injury. On 3rd downs we like the 4 receiver split and this should be where Wheaton gets his time in to show what he can do.

  • Digby

    Sorry DB, gotta disagree. Wheaton, No. 3 this year. He has a way bigger skill set then Jericho. Route running & the playbook will be the only things he needs to overcome and with his speed frankly it’s just go out and go deep. Much like Wallace in his early years. Only time will tell though. I guess you could just call me an optimist…

  • Digby

    Paul, that is a ridiculously uninformed statement

  • Paul

    You must have a crystal ball fella

  • Digby

    no, I’m simply saying for you to say that NFL writer just write stuff, to write stuff is a ridiculously uninformed statement. my prediction is more optimism than anything else based on the Wheaton’s skill set & upside

  • Randy Neff

    Actually nearly all the comments on Wheaton in the article are from former scout Daniel Jeremiah.

  • Guest

    no, I’m simply saying for you to say that NFL writer just write stuff, to write stuff is a ridiculously uninformed statement. my prediction is more optimism than anything else based on the Wheaton’s skill set & upside

  • Digby

    I even temper my counter to DB with “only time will tell” clearly showing my lack of a crystal ball…lol

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    As I have formerly opined, both Burress and Cotchery will miss significant time due to injuries this season. Wheaton will play and probably Gilreath and/or Woods as well.

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    will be forced to play, I meant to say

  • sgtrobo

    I don’t see why it is unlikely that he beats out Jerricho Cotchery. I like Cotchery, but let’s get real. He is 31 and in his 2 seasons with the Steelers, he’s had 16 receptions for 237 yards (2011) and 17 receptions for 205 yards (2012) and hasn’t scored a TD for us since 2011 vs. Cleveland. I don’t see how anyone can consider him a lock for anything, let alone a starter. The Steelers certainly haven’t used him that much so it’s not like he’s a vital cog

  • Kolie Oak

    By the middle of the season Marcus will have proven himself to go on and easily crack 40 receptions.
    This kid was a Pac-12 stud, I think he has more upside than A Brown, Time will tell if he works as hard as Antonio..

  • charles

    Your post is great, as usual. Wallace certainly made the most of his opportunities. Forced to play or not it will be up to Wheaton how much playing time he will get. I know that Ben will give him the opportunity to catch a few long balls

  • Madi

    Wheaton absolutely has a chance to see significant time this year. Cotchery and Burress are what they are. We all love Cotchery, but the coaches will want to replace him with Wheaton as soon as he’s able. Wheaton’s quicker, faster, and more dangerous than both of them. He’s at a disadvantage having missed all of OTAs and minicamp, but he’s a smart and dedicated guy.
    I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him start out lower on the depth chart, and finish the season as the #3.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Look i’m just expecting him to break Calvin Johnson’s yardage record this year, not to much to ask i don’t think

  • Randy Neff

    Thanks, charles. Your right about Ben giving Wheaton some long bomb shots. If they connect, it’ll get corners to back off slightly. And Wheaton is more polished coming out of college than any of the “young money crew.”

  • Steves

    Is that ALL???

  • steeltown

    While I agree that Wheaton has far more upside than Cotchery, especially at this point in his career, I think a lot of of Cotch’s production is based on the personnel groupings as mentioned above. He was behind Wallace, Brown and Sanders and its evident that the Steelers didn’t use 4WR sets to often
    Regardless though, Wheaton should see more playing time by seasons end, either due to learning the complete Offense or god forbid injury to one of the ‘starters’

  • steeltown

    I agree, Wheaton will most likely amass 30-40+rec. only if (god forbid) one of the starters goes down with injury and cant dress for a few games

    I would love to be wrong on this though and have him breakout and be a rookie phenom, but like Bryan wrote, my expectations will be tempered

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Markus has the advantage of having already played all the receiver positions and having very good speed as well. For those reasons alone, I see the Steelers using his position flexibility and deep-play ability to open up the passing game, or spread out the defense on running plays. While he may not be targeted as a receiver near as much as Brown or Manny, I expect he’ll see the field more than a little.

    Expect buzz about him out of training camp.

  • Luke Shabro

    DB, I know it’s not about Wheaton but any chance Gilreath beats out Plax to make the 53? There has to be something to the kid if TB was willing to sign him to their 53

  • steeltown

    I think Gilreath has more ‘upside’ than Burress, he can return kicks and be the 5th WR on the depth chart. Obviously the thing Burress has in his favor is that he’s a tall redzone threat. Just depends who they see more valuable, its hard to say being that we already have a few undersized WR’s they may go with Burress.

    To me this is one of the bigger position battles in camp (the 5th WR spot) with Burress, Gilreath, J.Brown and JD Woods should be a dogfight during preseason, all trying to outdo eachother

  • Basketball_iQ

    We are pretty deep at receiver,,,,, I love it.