Rookie Watch: Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
With the 17th pick of the third round the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Markus Wheaton WR, from Oregon State University. Everyone expected the Steelers to upgrade their receiving core at some point during the draft after they lost Mike Wallace via free agency. To say Wheaton had a productive college career would be an understatement, his senior year he posted 91 receptions for 1244 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers combined with his previous stats at Oregon State were enough to set the school record for career receptions (227).
The opportunity to get on the field early in his NFL career is there for Wheaton. Currently Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are penciled in as the starters on the outside and that leaves Wheaton battling it out with veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress for the slot duties. At this point in their careers Wheaton is the more explosive player over Cotchery and Burress and I would have to think he offers more upside to the Steelers offense. Without knowing when their tight end Heath Miller will be able to return from a torn ACL the Steelers could ask a lot more out of their slot receiver early on in the season. And if you look at the offense Wheaton came from at Oregon State, it’s pretty similar to what Todd Haley runs in Pittsburgh, a lot of quick hitting routes and screens to get the receivers in space and let them make the moves.
Make no mistake Wheaton is no Mike Wallace. That’s not a knock on him, but Wallace is extremely fast and always demands safety help over the top. Although Wheaton will not be the “elite” deep threat Wallace is, he offers enough speed that opposing defenses will have to be honest. But ultimately I think Wheaton can be a better fit for this Steelers offense. He’s a quality route runner and he will not shy away from going over the middle to make a catch.
With Ben Roethlisberger needing a new security blanket until Miller returns, whoever wins the battle for the slot receiver could have nice fantasy upside especially early on in the season. The opportunity and potential is there for Wheaton to contribute immediately for the Steelers and possibly your fantasy team in 2013!!