Second-Year Receivers Get Their Share Of Playing Time

Prior to the Pittsburgh Steelers preseason opener against the New York Giants, I came into the game with two questions in mind regarding playing time for the wide receivers: namely, how early will Justin Brown play, and how long will Markus Wheaton play?

The latter is a second-year player who spent his rookie season on the practice squad but has been climbing the depth chart this summer. The former is also a second-year player with limited experience who is entering the starting lineup.

In Wheaton’s case, while he didn’t play every snap, he did play consistently throughout the entirety of the first half.

He began the game lining up across from Antonio Brown, and ended his stay on the field playing opposite Justin Brown.

Brown, meanwhile, received some early playing time on the Steelers’ second possession—though not with Ben Roethlisberger, who only played a single series—replacing Wheaton as an outside receiver and playing with Antonio Brown.

Interestingly, the Steelers began the game with two consecutive one-receiver sets, with the veteran Brown as the lone receiver. They went five wide on the third play, including Le’Veon Bell, Heath Miller, and Dri Archer.

After Wheaton’s end-around carry that was good for 10 yards, he came off the field for a breather, which gave Justin Brown the opportunity to get in some work as an outside receiver with Bruce Gradkowski in the game.

After that, all the remaining offensive starters exited the game. With the starters on the field, the offense ran a number of one-receiver sets with Antonio Brown on the field. On the first snap with the second-team offense, Justin Brown was the lone receiver.

On the next snap, the Steelers went to the 11 personnel with Wheaton and Derek Moye as the outside receivers, and Brown moving into the slot.

Brown remained in the slot for the majority of the remainder of his playing time in the first half when there were three receivers on the field, though that was not the case on Gradkowski’s sack, on which Wheaton played the slot.

To start the second half, Brown was the third receiver, with Moye and Martavis Bryant serving as the primary targets. He remained in the slot when the Steelers went to the 11 personnel for the majority of his second-half snaps.

Of the group of Brown, Moye, and Bryant, the 6’3” Brown is the munchkin of the group, but the real reason he played so much in the slot is to help prepare him for potential playing time during the season, where in select instances his height will be more advantageous than Lance Moore’s 5’9” frame.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Paddy

    The quarter back play of Gradkowski and Jones made it virtually impossible to evaluate any receiver. However the 2nd string line was mostly awful

  • steeltown

    Yes, lets not forget the 2nd Team OLine struggled mightily, especially against NYG 1st Team and although there were some errant throws by Landry the 2nd and 3rd Team WRs and RBs were dropping some catchable balls

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I like the fact that they are trying different guys at these positions. If you expect a small fast DB to defend your slot guy, you may want Justin Brown there and expect him to make a tough, contested catch over the middle. But if you expect a LB, or bigger safety, then you want Moore or Wheaton there — they would be able to use their speed to get open.

    If Ben finds mismatches that he likes, he and Haley should immediately go “No-huddle” to take advantage. I like the diversity of speed, quickness, height, and toughness that the Steelers seem to have at WR. I hope they are getting ready to make use of all this potential. It looks like that’s what they’re planning.

  • steeltown

    The J.Brown situation is getting even more interesting, he received the most snaps by far of any of the skill position players and they obviously are using him in multiple positions and WR sets

  • Axe Skot

    The biggest danger to the offense again will be O-line injury. The depth there is abysmal.

  • wdhammer

    Martavis stinks . waste of time butter fingers.

  • cencalsteeler

    I’m going out on a limb, and predicting we see J.Brown jerseys by seasons end.

  • Tom

    As I recall, similar words were used to describe Jerry Rice during his rookie year.

  • Steve

    Really – It’s his 1st game, give the guy a chance. I remember Terry Bradshaw being booed off the field, he still won 4 Superbowls.

  • wdhammer

    you kidding me ,you’re comparing this stiff with rice ?

  • steeltown

    Ha! After one preseason game… classic

  • wdhammer

    He’s a clone of Limas Sweed. HE STINKS !!!

  • Weiss Chad

    Martavis stinks and shazier is a bust .What else do you have for is einstien?

  • wdhammer

    What else do you have for is einstein ?What the ! talk about a genius . Martavis stinks .

  • ApexSteel

    Are you really this dense? You just can’t be.

  • wdhammer


  • ApexSteel

    Dense enough to call a rookie who’s played one game a bust? Nope

  • Weiss Chad

    You were right Einstein Martavis sucks