If the Pittsburgh Steelers offense is going to have success in 2014, second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton is going to have to show that he can handle the No. 2 wide receiver spot. So far during training camp he’s done just that and head coach Mike Tomlin appears to be happy with his progress.
“He’s working really hard, I like his approach to it,” said Tomlin after Sunday’s practice of the Oregon State product. “He’s a detail guy. I see him not only working out here before and after, but into the evening. He’s just taking a really professional approach. I think he understands what we expect and what we need from him, and the gravity of it.”
The gravity of it is that the Steelers need Wheaton to step up and replace the production that they lost during the offseason when they chose not to re-sign wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The 67 receptions that Sanders recorded last season might not seem like a big number to achieve, but it is when you consider that Wheaton only had six during his rookie season, which was slowed because of a finger injury.
Until Wheaton starts to produce and earns the respect from opposing defenses, fellow starting wide receiver Antonio Brown knows that he will receive a lot of attention.
“Yeah, I’m definitely a marked man,” Brown said recently about the upcoming season, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Veteran Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor has worked against Wheaton for nearly two full training camps now and he believes the young wide receiver has a chance to make a name for himself pretty quick in 2014.
“He can be that guy that teams look at in the first four games and are like, ‘Who is that dude running past people?’ ” Taylor recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Wheaton’s current league-wide anonymity. “After those first four games, they’re like, ‘OK, we know who he is now.’ ”
In order to achieve that, Taylor thinks consistency is the key in addition to having the same mentality of a few other players on the roster.
“He’s got to have that Antonio Brown mentality, just like I feel Cortez Allen has to have that Ike Taylor mentality,” said Taylor. “You can’t care about anything but that person trying to beat you. That’s only thing I care about, and 10 other guys relying on me.”
As for Wheaton, himself, he just wants to do one thing.
“I just want to be on the field and make plays for my team,” Wheaton said.
Wheaton’s already doing that in training camp and next weekend he’ll get an opportunity to show how he’s progressed in the Steelers first preseason game against the New York Giants. We’ll get to see if that professional approach of his has indeed paid off.