On Tuesday Coach Mike Tomlin hinted at rookie receiver Markus Wheaton seeing more playing time moving forward, possibly as early as this Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field.
“I like what I am getting from him,” said Tomlin. “He has played some. He hasn’t been a target a lot. Hopefully that will increase as we move forward.”
The next day quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke highly of Wheaton, crediting the rookie with quickly picking up the offense.
“He is doing great,” said Roethlisberger. “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.”
And today, offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Wheaton is prepared to play, it’s just a matter of getting him opportunities, something that has been an issue because of the lack of production on offense.
“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 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.”
Wheaton, the Steelers third-round draft pick from Oregon State, has been in on just 12 snaps and has yet to have a catch. He is hoping that first catch comes this week against the Bears, knowing he just has to keep showing he is capable of handling the responsibility.
“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.”
Wheaton has the locker next to Roethlisberger, and he is taking advantage of that to ask him questions and learn as much as he can.
“I bother him all of the time, pick his brain. Try to learn. Try to continue to grow,” said Wheaton. “It’s nice because any time I have a question he is right there.”
Roethlisberger said he doesn’t mind if he talks even more, especially if the young receiver is going to get more reps.
“He doesn’t say much,” said Roethlisberger. “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.”