Rookie wide receiver, Markus Wheaton, has yet to get much playing time in the first two games of the season. The third round pick from Oregon State has zero receptions for the black and gold, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger believes that is about to change.
Earlier this week, Roethlisberger was asked how Wheaton was coming around.
“He is doing great,” said Roethlisberger. “He does not say much anyway. I have to kind of force things out of him, because I am trying to really develop a relationship with him both on and off the field. I think it is important, because I think he is a guy that we can use as a weapon. He’s a smart guy. He has a good understanding of the offense. He doesn’t really make mistakes. If he makes mistakes, it’s not really running the wrong route. It’s more depth here and there, or what we call giving too much flavor at the top of routes, trying to shake too many guys like he is in college. For me, he is more than ready to get in and start doing some stuff for us.”
Following that statement, Roethlisberger told the media that he thinks Wheaton will be used more this weekend against the Chicago Bears.
“I like what I am getting from him,” said head coach Mike Tomlin. “He has played some. He hasn’t been a target a lot. Hopefully that will increase as we move forward.”
During the preseason, Wheaton was one of the top targets for the Steelers, recording nine receptions including a 45-yard touchdown.
“The problem with some of that is when you are running 55 or 56 plays a game there are limited opportunities to get anybody in the game,” said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. “We’ve been working him hard. He is up to speed. Where he can help us, we will get him in there. But we need to stay on the field and move the chains. We need to create more opportunities to get guys in there.”
As for Wheaton, he feels he needs to prove to the coaches he is ready. The soft-spoken wide receiver says he has been picking Roethisberger’s brain on everything. The two players’ lockers are side-by-side.
“I am going to do as much as I can to prove to the coaches that I am ready to be out there,” said Wheaton. “That is all I can do. All I can do is stay focused, keep learning and maturing and hopefully the coaches will see something in me that I can contribute. All I can do is continue to stay in my playbook, pick Ben’s (Roethlisberger) mind, keep learning and prove to the coaches I am ready. There is stuff that I have to work on, but I definitely feel ready.”
As Sunday night is getting closer, will Wheaton become a factor in the offense? Can he be a key to some success in which the Steelers have not had much of this season? Time will tell of course, and after Sunday, we will tell if Wheaton has taken any steps in the offense or not.