Just when it looked like Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton was starting to see increased playing time during his 2013 rookie season, a busted finger in the Week 4 game in London against the Minnesota Vikings set back his development. Now that he’s back healthy again, the hope is that the Oregon State product will have a huge jump in production in his second season.
While Wheaton only caught six passes for 64 yards as a rookie, it’s way too early to be down on him. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown burst onto the scene during his second season in the league after a rookie season that saw him only catch 16 passes.
While Wheaton only played 161 regular-season snaps during his rookie season, Brown only played 69 during his. In addition, Brown didn’t have the luxury of OTA practices heading into his second season thanks to the 2011 lockout. Wheaton, on the other hand, will have a full compliment of OTA practices with the first set getting underway on Tuesday. Last season, he was forced to miss those practices due to Oregon State being on the quarter system.
These upcoming OTA practices for Wheaton will be huge for him and the speed of the game should slow down for him. His head should no longer be spinning as his knowledge of the offense should allow for him to work on the finer points of his game.
Wheaton also had a great mentor in veteran Jerricho Cotchery during his rookie season and that should also help in him making a huge second-year jump. In addition, the young wide receiver reportedly was also always picking the brain of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last season.
In 2011, Brown registered 69 catches during his second season in the league and that’s a Steelers franchise record as far as sophomore wide receivers go. Being as he only played 625 snaps that year, one would think that Wheaton would have a decent shot at at least coming close to those catch numbers as long as he stays healthy.
Should Wheaton indeed make that kind of expected jump, the Steelers should be in good shape as that’s roughly the same amount of production that they lost during the offseason when Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Denver Broncos.
Steelers All-Time Top 10 Second-Year Wide Receivers By Receptions