After having to miss a lot of playing and practice time during his rookie season due to a finger injury, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton is expected to show this offseason that he deserves to start opposite Antonio Brown in 2014.
At the conclusion of the Steelers first OTA practice of the 2014 season on Tuesday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked if he thinks that the Oregon State product is up for that task.
“Yeah, I hope so,” said Roethlisberger. “I think he’s a competitor, he’s a guy that wants to prove that he’s a guy and can be out here, and that he can be a starter. So I’m excited to see what he can do.”
While Wheaton only managed to catch six passes for 64 yards in the 161 offensive snaps that he played in 2013, he reportedly was always asking Roethlisberger and former wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery questions throughout the season.
During the offseason, Roethlisberger worked with Wheaton and fellow young wide receivers Derek Moye and Justin Brown out in California and he explained his decision in wanting to make sure that happened.
“I wanted to take the three younger guys out there,” said Roethlisberger of the February trip out west. “Obviously I offered it to everybody, but most importantly it was him (Wheaton), Derek and Justin, just to work with them and get a feel, and get an early start.”
An early start is something that Wheaton will get this year that he didn’t get last year as he was forced to miss the 2013 offseason OTA practices due to his school being on the quarter system.
In order to push Wheaton this offseason, the Steelers signed former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore during free agency. Moore’s addition was necessary due to Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders both signing elsewhere as unrestricted free agents.
According to Tuesday reports, Wheaton was the starter opposite Brown during the first practice.