Awaiting The Rookie Splash On Offense

By Matthew Marczi

With the defensive rookies for the Pittsburgh Steelers uncharacteristically emerging into more prominent roles, it begs the question: when will the offensive rookies finally have their say this year?

The Steelers went offense back to back in the second and third rounds at premium positions in the 2013 draft, selecting running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Markus Wheaton, respectively. But neither have been able to crack the stats sheet as of yet.

Bell, of course, has mitigating circumstances, as he is continuing to nurse his way back from a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. He was limited to just four carries in the second preseason game before the injury occurred, partially due to him being cautious with a knee injury that forced him to miss the first preseason game.

However, he has now gone through back to back practices as a ‘full’ participant (though as Mike Prisuta mentioned on Steelers Live, ‘full’ in this context is very much in the eye of the beholder).

He is officially listed as questionable on the injury report, suggesting that he is essentially a toss-up to play, but the general consensus seems to be that he will be given another week of work in practice before head coach Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers staff are ready to trot him out onto the field in a game.

On the other hand, Tomlin’s recent comments have certainly given strong indications that Markus Wheaton is quite on the verge of making an impact on offense following two consecutive losses to start the season.

Asked following the team’s Monday night loss to the Cincinnati Bengals if Wheaton is going to be a part of the “answers…in [the locker] room”, Tomlin said, simply, “he will be”.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was also recently asked about his newest toy, and he spoke highly of him:

He is doing great. He’s a smart guy. He has a good understanding of the offense. He doesn’t really make mistakes. If he makes mistakes, it’s not really running the wrong route. It’s more depth here and there, or what we call giving too much flavor at the top of routes, trying to shake too many guys like he is in college. For me, he is more than ready to get in and start doing some stuff for us.

Wheaton is a quiet, unassuming young man, so it helps that his locker is right next to his quarterback’s, whose brain he says that he picks all the time, as they work to build a rapport both on and off the field. Will we see that relationship bear fruit this Sunday? Right now, that is anybody’s guess.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • cp72

    Wheaton is not the next Mike Wallace but could be the next Santonio Holmes.

  • r4kolb

    You mean he’s gonna get busted for smoking hooch? LOL

  • Rob H

    Good comparison, not blazing fast, but fast enough to gain separation on any kind of route and the ability to go get the ball, only without Holmes’ baggage. He just has to get as good as Holmes was at finding the open spots whenever Ben scrambles.

  • HopalongCassidy

    Wheaton appeared to be the best receiver on the team in pre-season. Why he has not played more is a mystery. No, sorry, Tomlin’s judgment is the real mystery.

  • Mike Carroll

    That would be fine with me. I always preferred Holmes over Wallace. If he had stayed stayed out of trouble and on the team, I think the Steelers had a great chance of beating GB in the SB. Instead, the Steelers were left with a 2nd year Wallace, an aging Ward, and two very green rookies for that game.

  • Callentown

    Watching Sanders try to get open these first two weeks while Wheaton sits has been frustrating. Again, what is the fear, we’re losing every week. Play the players Haley!

    Oh, and Mike: get rid of Haley. Please.

  • dgh57

    It’s also frustrating to see our best blockers last game warming the bench while our running game suffers! Beachum, Palmer, and W. Johnson saw little if any playing time while Paulson took up most of the snaps.

  • charles

    Santonio helped us win a Super Bowl. Wallace did not really try very hard on that last pass from Ben against the Packers. If Wheaton is like Santonio, Colbet would have been right on fhe Wallace, AB, and Wheaton decisions.

  • charles

    If they see Beachum or Palmer, Chicago is going to put all eleven men in the box. Maybe W Johnson can become our deep threat…

  • Jay Jaber

    I agree 100%

  • steeler fever

    I would like to see a combination of Dwyer and Jones this Sunday, bringing Bell back early would seem like a move made from desperation.

  • dgh57

    That’s why Miller’s return is important for this team in that his very presence will cause our opponent(s) to respect him in the passing game and thus fewer in the box.

  • Fivesevenzero Sports-Radio

    Anyone hear whose going to start at RB this week?

  • Bob Loblaw

    Sanders leads the team in receptions and targets at this point. Maybe some of your ire should be directed at someone else?

  • Shelob9

    Beacuse that was the preseason where he was playing against 2nd team defenses.

  • charles

    If you are saying that Heath is our deep threat then the Steelers are in BIG trouble.

  • cencalsteeler

    I think they should utilize Will Johnson they way the Bears use Forte, but in a smaller role. Forte receives a lot of check down throws and passes in the flat and that allows him to pile up some nice yardage after the catch. Will Johnson needs more involvement in the offense in order for this offense to succeed.

  • Riverstko

    I would like to see Wheaton and Moye more involved in the offense. They have so much potential. Its sad we have alot of weapons on offense, but Haley has no clue what to do. Here is my solution …..play a regular base offense. Haley scheme is to complicated from O line blocks to WR routes its just not working out. Time for us to run a basic offense then we will get wins. Haleys system is confusing his on players.

  • Andrew Grigsby

    Hard for Wheaton to make any plays when he’s standing on the sideline. I know he’s a rookie but its time for him to get on the field.

  • dgh57

    Not sure how you’re getting I consider Miller as our deep threat from my reply as that’s not what I meant. All Miller has to do is simply play and run his routes and he’ll get the respect due him as a Pro Bowl TE. He’ll draw coverage away from our other WRs and DBs out of the box in the run game.

  • charles

    The Ravens play this type of game too. The difference is both teams have legitimate deep threats. It would be good if Ben hits something early and 20+ yards, that would open things up and keep that checkoff reciever from geting plastered.

  • charles

    Heath caught his pases mostly after Ben checked down on the WR routes. No threat from WRs means single coverage on them and more opposition in the box. The deep threat comment was tongue in cheek meaning Heath is not going to alter the number of players on or close to the line of scrimmage.
    Lets hope that Heath plays AND maybe Wheaton can come in and catch a couple of bombs early. Then Heath will be effective and so will all other aspects of the O.

  • Callentown

    Well, there’s certainly plenty to go around. We could all write for days with how many Steelers players and coaches are not playing up to ‘the standard’.

    Just saying Sanders can’t play the X outside position and should be in the slot. Why isn’t 11 out there?!?

  • dgh57

    And the WRs caught most of their passes after Ben checked down on Heath Miller and saw he wasn’t open because of drawing coverage his way. It works both ways. I try not to read to much into check downs as we don’t know what play is called and who the primary targets are. QBs who can read defenses can tell before the ball is snapped who’s going to get double teamed and can check down his secondary targets to try and draw coverage off his primary target. The more of the sure handed receivers you have on the field on any given play means fewer defenders in the box.

  • charles

    Good point. Heath can also create matchup problems for both safety or LB.