Like many of you, I too believe that rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton has the potential to develop into a great receiving threat for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as his college tape alone indicated that long before he was selected in the third-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. With that being said, Wheaton\’s first preseason game Saturday night against the New York Giants was far from perfect and he openly admitted that Monday to the media.
“A lot to work on, a lot to improve, a lot to fix,” said the humble Wheaton, who caught one pass for eight yards and rushed once for another ten yards against the Giants.
During the first 1:45 of clock time in the second quarter, Wheaton let his excitement of playing in his first professional game get the best of him. It started with him failing to maintain control of a pass on the right sideline from quarterback Bruce Gradkowski as the play was challenged by the Giants and rightly overturned. On the punt that would follow a few plays later, Wheaton, who was lined up outside as a gunner, accidentally took out the legs from underneath linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, who had just made a great tackle while covering a punt. Sylvester injured his ankle during the mishap and was out for the rest of the night as a result.
If that wasn\’t enough, Wheaton was flagged for a false start on the third play of the Steelers next offensive possession. Following the penalty being assessed, Wheaton lined up incorrectly on the left side of the formation after the offense broke the huddle which forced Gradkowski to have to unnecessarily burn a timeout.
When you throw in a few failed blocking attempts on top of those miscues, you can see why I put Wheaton on my losers list following the game. It doesn\’t mean that he is a loser, just that his play in the game, mostly the mental aspect of it, was well beneath the line.
“I was just excited to be out that,” said Wheaton. “Too excited. My wheels were spinning.”
Wheaton will have better games and I fully expect we will see that next Monday against the Washington Redskins in the second preseason game. It isn\’t surprising that his excitement got the best of him and manifested itself in the form of mental errors as several young players go through that. He will put that game behind him quickly and start exciting us all now that he has his first game behind him. He will be spinning those wheels in the opponents secondary a lot during the remainder of the preseason.