Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Markus Wheaton

By Matthew Marczi

It has been a theme for many years that, aside from the occasional special teams contributions, rookies on the Pittsburgh Steelers, including even first-round draft picks, rarely contribute during their first season. That has been especially true over the years on defense, though less so on offense.

That pattern changed somewhat in 2013 due to a variety of circumstances, both foreseen and unforeseen, as many rookies—even undrafted players—got a good chunk of playing time on both sides of the ball. Therefore, there’s more to go on than usual when speaking about how their rookie seasons went.

Player: Markus Wheaton

Draft Status: 3rd round (97th overall)

Snaps: 161

Starts: 1

With the departure of Mike Wallace in free agency, the Steelers made sure to address the wide receiver position in the 2013 draft, taking two wide receivers in the third and sixth rounds, respectively.

The first of those two, Markus Wheaton, expects to have a much bigger role in 2014, but his rookie season wasn’t much to speak of, considering he totaled just six receptions for 64 yards and six special teams tackles.

Wheaton was forced to fall behind before his rookie season even started due to school regulations, as he wasn’t allowed to attend the rookie minicamp and other early offseason activities. As a result, it took him longer to get involved and to establish a rhythm with the starters.

During the preseason, Wheaton was targeted 22 times, but caught only nine of those passes. Given that only one of those was deemed a drop, it’s reasonable to conclude that much of that disconnect had to do with the quarterbacks targeting him.

By the time the regular season rolled around, Wheaton was clearly the fourth receiver on the depth chart, averaging just seven snaps during the first three games. That changed in Week Four against the Minnesota Vikings, when he played 36 snaps, catching three of the five passes aimed his way for 26 yards.

Unfortunately, Wheaton broke a finger during the game, which required surgery, and as a result, he missed the next four games. By that time, Jerricho Cotchery had emerged as a serious receiving threat from the slot. He had just scored three touchdowns the week before against the Patriots.

Still, he saw his second-most extensive playing time his second game back against the Detroit Lions, in large part because of the fact that Emmanuel Sanders was injured early into the game. He was targeted four times, catching three of those passes for 38 yards, with 24 yards after the catch.

In total, Wheaton played about 160 snaps in his rookie season, catching six of 12 targets in his direction. 50 of those snaps came on running plays, on which he showed aptitude but had mixed success. He had a lot going against him during his rookie year between college restrictions and injuries, so he could experience a significant jump in his second year.

Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – LB Jarvis Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – RB Le’Veon Bell

About the Author

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

    I expect a big jump from him, he looked fast and elusive. A full offseason, staying healthy and establishing a rapport with Ben will go a long way

  • Callentown

    THE Ohio State University has one of THE stupidest rules still.

    I like Wheaton and think he will be a better fit and receiver than (throw my hands up while the play is still going) Sanders.

    Here’s hoping he can make the move to starting #2 this season!

  • dennisdoubleday

    That was Oregon State, and it isn’t their rule, it’s the NFL’s rule.

  • Callentown

    Thanks for the correction ddd. Forgot for a sec.

    I thought it was the school that determined the timeline that caused players who come out to not be able to play. No?

  • dennisdoubleday

    NFL rule, you can’t participate in camp until after graduation. OSU has a later graduation date than some other schools, so it doesn’t affect everybody.

  • Callentown

    Both OSU’s!

    Still, the school could easily help players not have a stunted move into the NFL if they wanted to. Thx for clarifying.

  • Virdin Barzey

    That’s what I saw as well. High ceiling for him and a great compliment to Brown and Cotchery. I like the BWC combination with Heath and Bell.

  • dgh57

    Wheaton had a tough rookie year as the article pointed out and with a full off season hopefully we can expect much more or at least enough to say so long and good bye, don’t let the door hit you in the a** on the way out, Sanders!!

  • Ken

    The finger and Cotchery’s good play kept him from doing much…

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I expect AB to get special treatment by opposing defenses next year, which means others will have a little more room to operate. You need only look back to a few plays to see the potential in Wheaton:

    In the pre season, he caught a ball from QB jones for a 40 yard gain and reminded me of Wallace. If the ball was thrown a little farther it was an easy TD with him flying past the DB.

    During the season, Ben threw palls behind him on crossing routes when Wheaton was again open and about to turn it up the field for a big gain and a potential explosive play. That comes down to timing. By next season Ben will realize he needs to throw it well ahead of him because he is so fast.

    These guys should be practicing their timing in the off season. As an example please note how many of Manning’s short passes are caught by his Denver WR’s in stride and then turn into big, big plays as the WR is accelerating as opposed to slowing down or stopping to catch the pass and getting tackled or the play broken up.

  • DrakePirate

    i think likewise … even though his season was injury filled, he learned the offense, what it means being a pro ,get settled in the city and got some valuable playing time … so it was not all bad … i see a big jump from him going forward

  • DrakePirate

    do u see him eventually as a #2 or a solid #3 … I’m not limiting him, but a quality slot #3 guy can be just as valuable as a #2 … i actually am pretty high on him, but see him more of as a #3 slot guy … in the 800 yd range 4-5 TDs eventually … and get the #2 as either a Big WR or a Sammy Watkins type.

    Would be great to have 3 WRs 2TEs and Bell to distribute all the balls to !

  • DrakePirate

    good point on Cotchery

  • steeltown

    Don’t forget the 34yd TD grab from Gradkowski against the Chiefs in the preseason, that ones fun to watch

  • Iron Cadet

    Which is why I doubt we go wide receiver in the first round. If we do then that pretty much limits Wheaton to the 3rd receiver spot at best

  • Callentown

    Man, that picture sure is a nice one Drake.
    I think it depends on who gets added to the team. But I could see him playing #2. As we heard all pre-season last year, Wheaton has speed under the 4.5 he was clocked at for the combine.

    Route running and hands are both good as well.

    If Sammy Watkins SOMEHOW ends up on the Steelers (extreme long-shot to me), I don’t know how I will contain myself.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    It puzzles me why people want a big WR in the first round, seems like people have forgotten about Wheaton. Cotch is a legit #3 receiver as well. On top of that, this year’s WR class is deep and so a round 5-7 WR this year is functionally equivalent to a round 3-5 WR in other years.

    Let’s be smarter about mock drafts people…

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    Simply put, the jury is out on Mr Wheaton. With Sanders possibly gone, Cotchery another year older and all other options shaky at best, it seems clear another draft pick, if not more, will need to be used at WR. I propose Donte Moncrief and Kevin Norwwod.

  • SFIC

    While I agree that this year’s WR class is the deepest in ages and finding a solid WR later in the draft would be smart. One should not be surprised if we pick up one earlier should the value be too good to turn down….IE: Sammy Watkins at 15.

  • SFIC

    I watched a lot of Wheaton prior to last year draft. He, along with Bell were high on my wish list. My mock had us taking Wheaton in 2 and Bell in 3.
    I have total faith that Wheaton will have a breakout year next season. Not only will he be able to attend all preseason sessions, his hands should be fully healed by then too.

  • John

    Does anyone know how Wheaton ranks compared to the new WR from Oregon St. coming out this year? Any chance the Steelers look at the other OSU receiver as a high pick? They seem to like taking players when they have inside knowledge from a former player at that school – see, e.g., Gilbert.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    I agree though I doubt Sammy slides to 15 and teams like the Jets ahead of us. Sammy’s the only WR I’d even consider that with (not even my #2 WR Lee); based on game tape and experience, I feel that Benjamin and Evans are loved for their size but are not particularly good at running routes, etc. They relied on size too much in college so they got the stats, but in the NFL when CBs can jump a lot more, they’ll have a harder time = non-impact players unless they learn to diversify.

    At pick 15, we need defense the most or an OT. Matthews will be gone, so I’d endorse Lewan at 15, or Dennard (my #1 CB, though I think he’ll be gone to the Lions at 10) and/or an OLB (or possibly DE). Safety will be available but we can do that later since I’ve seen HaHa on tape and his cover skills are iffy at best; draftniks judge safeties more on their hard hitting than cover skills.

    I totally endorse trading down in general because this is a deep draft (esp. in Rds 2-3) and we need multiple positions, then playing the Best (Def) Player Available strategy with the above caveats.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Looking forward to Wheaton making a big leap from his rookie season. He came in behind missing all the OTA’s but appeared to catch on pretty quickly in training camp. Though he have more productive rookie season guess with the injuries and with the Cotchery playing so well he was forced to sit. I still feel he got some valuable experience that should help him be a force in year 2. Wouldn’t be mad if the Steelers drafted another WR to go along with the group we already have.

  • DrakePirate

    i wouldn’t say the jury is still out … i think we have seen enough to know the talent is there … its just a matter if he will fulfill his potential !

  • DrakePirate

    dont exactly see it that way

  • DrakePirate

    i dont like OT, CB or FS in first round … there is absolutely zilch for value there at our spot … they are all 2nd round talent … lets get 1st round talent in the first round and at a position of need … just makes sense to me !

  • Emmanuel Merceoniu

    i been doin my research n i found Cody Hoffman from BYU. he is 6-4 n 210lbs. i think the steelers like to draft the underrated players. i see that with him. so i see steelers drafting him in the 3rd round n i know we dont have a 3rd round pick rite now.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Thanks. Yup, with a flip to the ref from the Pro who intends to make many more TD’s – just another day at the office.

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    Six catches shows little IMO. He might go on to have a great career, he might be a shorter Limas Sweed, who also had enormous talent and unlimited potential. I’d feel better with a couple of fresh options.

  • DrakePirate

    while you are correct he didnt have many catches … i think most would be surprised if he didnt have a decent year next year at least in the neighbourhood of 50 rec/600 yds plus 4 Tds … but I’m on board with ya … i would like another good option at WR from the Draft and considering we have the speedy/quick options already i would prefer a big body strong type for the RZ

  • DrakePirate

    I personally like Jordan Matthews out of Vandy … not sure if we would go that high … think he’s a 2nd rounder

  • LayDownTheHammer

    As I mentioned, FS I agree. CB I agree if Dennard is gone (he is the best pure cover CB and the rest especially Gilbert are coveted for their size and less for their cover skills – think safeties coveted for their hitting and not for their cover skills). OT, I think Lewan will be available.

    “Value” in a draft means little unless you draft smart. And with the Steelers’ sorry drafts (looking at you, MT) recently, we have too many needs for a simple “value pick” to be justified. Best “value” at 15 IMO pre-Combine is likely a type of player we don’t need and/or doesn’t fit our scheme (e.g. Louis Nix). They said that Rashard and Limas were both “value” picks in the 1st and 2nd rds, too…

  • LayDownTheHammer

    Historically, pecking orders for WRs are hugely dictated by Combine measurables (even though people pay way too much attention to the 40 and vert jump rather than quickness drills and route-running discipline)

  • DrakePirate

    i hope they dont go the Lewan route … i think that would be a wasted pick …. dont like Nix … would love a CB/S if there were any really good ones, but i see just good ones … which can be had in the 2-4th rounds

  • LayDownTheHammer

    I’m not sure why people are so down on Lewan. Yes he relies on his size more than Matthews (who relies on technique more and thus is more easily translatable to the NFL), but he is a good LT. I’ll never forget the game against Clowney in which he bottled him up all day (that destruction tackle was not his assignment).

    Safety, yes, I agree with Rds 2-4. I haven’t seen too much tape on Jimmie Ward but think favorably of him. We need CBs fast = game-ready. I think the only good game-ready CB (as good as it’ll get in this draft and thus for out purposes) is Dennard. I would have said Ekpre-Olomu but not sure why he went back to UO. Jason Verrett is the 2nd best CB I have but I haven’t seen him on tape as much as Dennard or Gilbert (not the biggest fan). Roby is a 2nd rounder at best and regressed a bit this year; Joyner, 2nd rounder at best. I do like Fuller but haven’t seen him on tape as much either. The rest (including the Florida ones) aren’t game-ready for another 1-2 years.