If Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton isn\’t going to be a legitimate candidate to return punts in 2013, it really doesn\’t make much sense to have him playing on special teams. At least, that\’s my opinion.
Wheaton has said recently that he didn\’t play much on special teams during his time at Oregon State, so now is probably not a good time for him to start. At some point during his rookie season, Wheaton will be asked to take over the No. 3 wide receiver position from Jerricho Cotchery and that is where his entire focus should be at right now.
In the preseason opener Saturday night against the New York Giants, Wheaton played four snaps on special teams. While I haven\’t gone back through the game to check it, I assume that all four of those snaps came as an outside gunner on punt coverage. I know for a fact that was the case at least once, and it almost ended with linebacker Stevenson Sylvester having his knee blown out due to Wheaton flying into his legs, just as he was coming up from making the tackle.
I understand that Wheaton has the kind of speed most special team coordinators covet in an outside gunner, but I just don\’t see how the positives outweigh the negatives in a situation like his. Does anybody remember Mike Wallace working as a gunner during his rookie season? If he did, I don\’t remember it, and I bet he didn\’t do it for long if he did.
Being as the Steelers will likely only carry five wide receivers on their 53 man roster, that position should only be used on special teams if a player adds something in the way of returns. It\’s bad enough that it looks like Antonio Brown might be forced to return punts this season, so why have yet another one of those five running down the field five or six times again looking to get themselves into a car wreck?