With Mike Wallace headed for South Beach, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking a little thin at wide receiver heading into the 2013 campaign. In hopes of alleviating the issue, the Steelers went out and made Markus Wheaton a third-round pick this past April.
Somewhat of a polarizing talent, there’s still a lot to learn about Wheaton as an NFL prospect. While the young wide receiver possesses some promising physical tools, the polish might not be there for Wheaton to start contributing immediately. It also doesn’t help that he’ll miss all of OTAs due to a late graduation from Oregon State.
Once he does get with the team during training camp, we’ll see if he can catch on quickly enough to secure significant snaps early behind starters Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. There has even been speculation that Wheaton could push Sanders for snaps at split end, but the more likely situation is that the rookie gets plenty of looks out of the slot while Brown and Sanders man the outsides.
If tight end Heath Miller isn’t back at 100 percent when the regular season rolls around, the Steelers could be forced to go with three-wide sets early and often. If that’s the case, Wheaton would likely get the bulk of the slot snaps.
Before we can start talking too deeply about Wheaton getting consistent playing time, he’ll have to beat out the likes of Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery for the No. 3 wide receiver spot. While he has an edge in both age and explosiveness, Wheaton might be too inexperienced for the Steelers to rely on right away. In the end, it’ll all depend on how he performs once training camp arrives.
Replacing Wallace will be a tall order for the Steelers, but Wheaton should help the cause, especially in future seasons as he accumulates experience and maturity.
Until then, the Steelers will be hoping that their rookie third-rounder will overcome the steep learning curve and become a factor in his first NFL campaign.