No News Is Good News For Markus Wheaton

Earlier this week, one commenter wondered why I left out 6’5” wide receiver Derek Moye while discussing two other tall young receivers on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, namely Justin Brown and rookie Martavis Bryant.

There’s not much to wonder about, really. Although the former Penn State wide out did make the roster a year ago, and even managed to catch a touchdown pass, the reality is that his contributions have been minimal, and he stands to be phased out in 2014.

Aside from that, he hasn’t given reporters much to write about so far. I hear he caught a touchdown pass during a drill in the last practice, though. Perhaps he can deliver something worthy of a headline when the preseason games begin, as he did last year.

What is much more curious than lack of coverage of a fringe wide receiver, however, is the relative silence surrounding the inexperienced new starting wide receiver in the lineup, second-year former third-round draft pick Markus Wheaton.

And it’s not because he hasn’t been showing well and garnering attention. It seems more that he’s performed so effortlessly and naturally in his greatly expanded role that it didn’t seem out of the ordinary, and thus worthy of discussion.

But as another commenter pointed out, that alone is indeed worthy of discussion.

After all, the prospect of Wheaton coming into 2014 as the number two wide out on the depth chart was one of the major reasons that many projected the Steelers would target a wide receiver in the draft as early as the first round.

Wheaton is showing that their investment in him over the past two seasons has not been unfounded. Alex Kozora wrote in his training camp recaps that Ben Roethlisberger has been targeting him frequently, a year after seemingly the majority of his targets were filtered to Antonio Brown, who caught 110 of them.

If the Steelers could give Roethlisberger two consistently reliable receivers to target in the starting lineup who will catch the ball and then make something happen after the catch, then it only makes each receiver separately that more dangerous.

Of course, it will take time before Wheaton can establish himself on the radar of opposing defenses and defensive coordinators, considering his rookie season was bogged down by missed time in training camp and a pair of broken fingers during the regular season that helped limit him to just six catches on 12 targets.

Thus, it won’t do Brown much good in the early portions of the season as defenses hone in on the All-Pro receiver. But it could, and should, afford Wheaton some extra opportunities early on. It seems the consensus among those who have been following his progress this summer is unanimous: the kid’s gonna be all right.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • dkoy85

    It is nice hearing nothing but positive things about him. Makes me feel more comfortable.

  • Steelers12328882

    I think Wheaton was only targeted frequently last practice. I believe it was 7 targets, while his previous practices netted a combined 4 targets. I could be off on those numbers. I think that more than anything explains his quietness.

  • ApexSteel

    I feel like Lance Moore doesn’t get enough recognition. People keep saying we need two good wideouts and someone needs to step up, but AB and Lance Moore are two proven/productive wideouts. Not to say that we don’t need more of them, but it’s weird to see Lance be seen as such an after thought when honestly he may have the best hands on the team.

  • Jacque Strappe

    Lance Moore needs to learn how to block, bottom line.

  • Steelers12328882

    I think both him and Wheaton have been ignored so far during practice, and I’m confused as to why. On a positive note I believe both were targeted heavily last practice, but in comparison AB was tripling the amount of targets they were getting before that. Maybe just a comfort thing early on, but you’d think Ben would want to get the kinks out right away.

  • joed32

    He’s a known commodity and a good one so nothing to report. “No news is good news.” Just like in Wheaton’s case, if either of them were struggling in any way that would be news.

  • SteelersDepot

    not going to happen at this point.

  • Jacque Strappe

    Sad state of affairs when it comes to YAC when you have one guy who won’t buy in. Sadly, that’s selfish. Shame Hines isn’t still around.

  • Bill

    It’s curious the accolades being handed out for a player who has as of yet shown nothing on the field other than the field of practice. It’s like a pep talk being given to troops on the eve of battle who have trained well but never experienced combat. All you have to rely on his hope & prayer. At least Moye has a touchdown to his credit. Of course if you’ve already made up your mind that this person is the man, then looking at any others is superfluous, right?

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I’m sorry if you’re family but the ability to compare players without having in game statistics is pretty common. You can also simply look at the depth chart the team has put out. There is no hope and prayer involved in reporting on what you see and hear. It isn’t an insult to a player when you talk about a team and how they have said they plan to use their players.

    It’s great to hope and pray for Moye but you aren’t going to get him a job by getting bloggers to talk about him more.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I think he’s good enough to trade since the WR depth chart is so deep.

    I don’t think he’s good enough to start and he’s probably 4th on the depth chart by mid season.

  • Jesse Murray

    My question regarding Wheaton is a simple one: did Sanders ever look as good in camp. I cant ever recall Manny being raved about in camp or going into a season (I’d argue Justin Brown has had more good press). The bigger issue amongst the WR corps imho is replacing Cotch’s clutch 3rd down production/TDs. In Moore, JB, Miller, Bell and Blount I believe the PS have the answer to that problem.

    Wheaton replacing Sanders to me isnt that big a leap. Sanders did not do much to take attention away from AB. AB didnt have the luxury of healthy Miller at TE to open things up more eihter. Toss in Bell was a rookie, and it makes it all the more remarkable that AB had such a superb season. Sanders I believe will be missed most in the run blocking department.

  • Asmitty56

    Thankfully reports are ‘Tavis looked well in blocking, maybe not so much this year but in the future he should have no problem replacing J-Co’s TD numbers. Wheaton seems to be more athletically gifted than Sanders, just a matter of producing. I’m not sure if he will get similar production in the RZ as Sanders, but getting close to his recs and yrds numbers last season shouldn’t be a problem. Between Miller and Bell in the receiving game, and Bell and Blount in the run game with healthy Miller and Spaeth and what should be an improved OL I think surpassing their TD numbers shouldn’t be a problem. ‘Tavis and J.Brown might throw in a hand full of TDs of their own as well.

  • Asmitty56

    I doubt that happens when the majority of our WRs are are similar weight to most DBs. Bryant has done well there from what I’ve heard, J.Brown has the size to do well. They still have Miller who can bury DBs without a problem, Spaeth should as well. Hopefully they can get creative with Will Johnson to use him as a lead blocker on the flat for screen passes, Bell can be used in a similar capacity as well with he and WJ’s ability to flex out.

  • Bill

    You missed the point. It’s not me who is “hoping and praying”: The Steelers coaching staff is “hoping and praying” that what they see from Wheaton on the practice field transforms to actual games and they may be correct. But if it doesn’t, they’re screwed. The way to avoid being screwed is to allow all the players involved to show what they can do during practice and pre season games rather than anointing one on the basis of practice alone. I wasn’t speaking of Moye alone but he was the one mentioned in the original article. Neither Moye nor Wheaton jump out you from game films. The depth chart at this point in the season is meaningless!

  • Big White

    The Steelers will come to him often and early to loosen up Brown on the other side. I think he will respond with flying colors.

  • Ike Evans

    Not really….these guys arent getting a tone of targets so far….4 is alot

  • charles

    Bill you are on target. But, Moye has seen battle. He hung on to a ball that Wallace would have only swung his arms at and barely did not hang on to a ball that would have been an exceedingly difficult catch. While it is only 2 plays both were impressive. Wheaton had 1 catch last year that after he caught the ball, he really accelerated. It had a flash of dangerous reciever. Somehow I believe this has Mann written all over it. Either way, you are right and lets let preseason sort it out.

  • charles

    Cotch replaced Miller, hopefully Heath has returned 100%….

  • ApexSteel

    Hines ward was around 6 ft tall and he was 200+ pounds. Lance Moore is 5’9 190. It’s should’ve been assumed that blocking would never be his strong suit.

  • Steelers12328882

    It’s all comparative. When AB is getting 3x that or more than you have to wonder. Before yesterday Wheaton and Moore were lacking way behind everyone else. You’d think you’d want to get those two just as many looks as anyone else. Think they noticed that and went after them on purpose yesterday.

  • whisn

    Stands to be phased out in 2014? Is that a football term? Wheaton hardly gets mentioned and it’s a good thing, and Moye hardly gets mentioned and it’s a bad thing? Why an article about Wheaton has to start with a dig at Moye i have no idea?

    Wheaton will do well I’m sure, Moye is a battling Justin Brown for a back-up roll, until the turf flies over the next few weeks, no one is in a position to know or predict who will be phased out or not, not even the coaches!

  • SSJwiggy

    This headline threw me off

  • Jacque Strappe

    So 10 lbs is the difference. Got it. I call bullcrap. It’s about effort. You don’t have to de-cleat someone to be an efficient blocker.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Wheaton hardly gets mentioned in a year in which he’s being injected into the starting lineup, in an offseason in which there was much hand-wringing about the future of the position and the necessity of drafting a receiver in the first round. The fact that Wheaton isn’t being written about means he’s silenced those doubts. Moye not being written about (while working with the camp body receivers) means he’s not doing anything to get noticed, and that’s not good for receivers on the bottom half of the depth chart.

    Justin Brown is clearly ahead of Moye now by pretty much all reports. Brown is practicing in the slot right now with Ben Roethlisberger and Moye is lining up with Lanear Sampson and being thrown passes by Brendon Kay.

    I can only base my writing on what has already happened and try to speculate from that. The reasonable speculation right now is that Moye will probably not be making the team. I have nothing against him.

  • SteveM2

    Have you actually attended any of the training camp sessions, Matthew?

  • Matthew Marczi

    No. I’ve never insinuated that any of my information is anything other than second-hand. You don’t have to read what I write if you don’t want to know my opinions. There’s really nothing else left to say.

  • SteveM2

    If you don’t attend the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers’ camp sessions, Matthew, it’s nearly-impossible to write accurate articles about the Black & Gold because you have no actual one-on-one context to base your opinions on.

    Drawing conclusions from others’ conclusions is risky business any time; to do so in this venue, with dedicated fans who’ve actually traveled — in many cases, long distances — to see what’s going on and what’s not going on at St. Vincent, makes your words less-credible than they’d be if you’d just get in your car and go see the team we all love, in person.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You’ll excuse me if I acknowledge that I can’t afford the 10-hour round-trip commute from my residence to Latrobe. I think Alex has been a fine ambassador as this community’s representative at training camp.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Why is anyone screwed?

    The depth chart changes constantly. Pre season games haven’t even started yet. You’re getting worked up over any comment or extra pass that doesn’t go Moye’s way.

    There is plenty of time for whoever is best to win the job.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I wonder more about JB earning the 3rd spot and lower guys on the roster being hard enough to cut that you look into trades instead of losing them on waivers.

  • SteveM2

    It wasn’t just Hines Ward’s physical attributes which made him a better blocker; it was Ward’s HOF attitude.

    What’s the saying, “’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

  • ApexSteel

    But if a little skinny poodle is going against a pit bull who you got your money on?