In the 2013 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers improved their receiving corps by selecting Markus Wheaton in the third round. Adding Wheaton to the roster was much needed, considering the fact that the Steelers lost Mike Wallace to free agency and veterans Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery will be both on the wrong side of 30 at the start of the 2013 season.
Though fellow receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are penciled in to be the team’s starting pass catchers, I believe that it will be Wheaton’s production that will dictate the success of Pittsburgh’s passing game.
The First-Team All-Pac 12 selection finished last season with 91 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns at Oregon State. Wheaton’s versatility will give offensive coordinator Todd Haley more flexibility in the passing game, and it will also present more favorable matchups against opposing defenses.
Wheaton doesn’t have the blazing speed that Wallace displayed for the Steel City, but he is fast enough to take the top off of defenses and open things up on shorter routes for Brown and Sanders. In addition, Wheaton can be a possession receiver as well. This is something that may be needed if tight end Heath Miller isn’t ready to play at the start of the season.
It’s uncharacteristic to say that the Steelers will have a rookie making a huge impact on a season knowing that the organization has a history of not starting first-year players. However, in this case, Pittsburgh could be slated to have a few rookies playing big roles in the upcoming season.
Wheaton could not only be the deciding factor in the Steelers’ passing game, but he just could be one of the most valuable players on the team.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google