The Pittsburgh Steelers may have envisioned rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton replacing the departed Mike Wallace as their primary deep threat this season, but it was not to be as Wheaton missed multiple games with a broken pinkie and had just six receptions for 64 yards in 12 games played.
Antonio Brown clearly replaced Wallace as the Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver this year, and a top option for fantasy football owners, with 110 receptions for 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns. But Emmanuel Sanders (67 receptions for 740 yards and six touchdowns) and Jerricho Cotchery (46 catches for 602 yards and 10 touchdowns) were also productive this year, and with both guys headed for free agency Wheaton may be able to earn a bigger role next season. What should fantasy owners expect from Wheaton going forward?
All of Wheaton’s production as a rookie came in two games, with matching three-catch games in Week 4 against the Minnesota Vikings (for 26 yards) and Week 11 against the Detroit Lions (for 38 yards). 10 of his 13 targets for the season came in those two games as well, and he played just 153 offensive snaps (12.8 per game) in a minimal role.
Cotchery and Sanders may be re-signed, but Wheaton has more physical talent (4.45-second 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine last year) than either of the two veterans and it’s safe to say suffering two broken fingers in the same season as he did can be called a fluke until further notice. Wheaton will not instantly be a sure-fire fantasy starter next year, even if optimism continues about an increased role, but he may be draftable in deeper leagues and a good start to his second season would make him a popular waiver wire addition fairly quickly.