Due to a finger injury suffered last year, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton only registered six catches for 64 yards in the 12 games that he dressed for during his rookie season. With Wheaton now the odds on favorite to start this year as the No. 2 option opposite Antonio Brown, what kind of numbers should we expect him to have?
While some doubt that the Oregon State product will have a huge jump in production in his second season, there were several that thought the same thing about former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward way back in 1999, which was his second season in the league.
As a rookie, Ward only caught 15 passes in the 16 games that he played in 1998, but he followed up that season up by catching 61 passes the following year.
Just a few years ago, Brown made a huge jump during his second season in the league as well as he caught 69 passes in 2011 after only catching 16 during his rookie season. Brown also only started three games that season and played all of 625 snaps.
Brown’s 69 catches in 2011 is also the most by a Steelers second-year wide receiver in the history of the franchise.
Being as Brown will more than likely be the primary target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2014, I still think that Wheaton should be able to average at least four catches a game this season and that would put him at right around 64, assuming he plays in all 16 games.
Last season, Emmanuel Sanders caught 67 passes, but was targeted a whopping 112 times. While Wheaton might not see the amount of targets that Sanders saw last season unless the team is trailing in the fourth quarter as much as they were last year, 100 targets is certainly achievable. On top of that, one would hope that Wheaton should easily be able to top Sanders’ 59.8% reception percentage from last season.
Yes, the Steelers did add veteran wide receiver Lance Moore during the offseason, but during his career, he’s mostly been used in three wide receiver sets and thus should see less snaps than Wheaton sees this season.
So how many receptions should we expect out of Wheaton in 2014? I am penciling him in for 60-69 catches. How many do you predict for him?