The Pittsburgh Steelers have developed a habit of recycling talent each and every season, somehow replacing proven veterans with lesser-known youngsters that are plugged in and instantly contribute. At this year’s draft, the team looks like it has done it again with wide receiver Markus Wheaton.
After Mike Wallace signed a five-year, $60-million deal with the Miami Dolphins, the Steelers were in need of adding another playmaker at wide receiver. With Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers have two proven options at the position, but adding Wheaton gives the team a dangerous trio of weapons out wide.
Markus Wheaton is both a dangerous option out of the slot and as a potential deep threat, as he ran a 4.45 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He was Oregon State’s all-time leader in receptions (227) and was excellent in 2012, finishing with 91 passes for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands, as evidenced by his 631 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in four years at Oregon State. And he’s incredibly quick, making him difficult to jam and a blur coming in and out of his cuts.
Standing at 5’11″ and 190 pounds, he’s cut from the same cloth as both Brown and Sanders, meaning he should fit right in at Pittsburgh. And given he has four
years of experience, his adjustment period to the NFL game should be expedited.
You have to like the draft the Steelers have had thus far. James Harrison signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, so the team got great value with the No. 17 pick, drafting Jarvis Jones of Georgia who led the nation in sacks (14.5) and tackles for loss (24.5) this season. He’s the perfect fit for Pittsburgh’s defense.
The team struggled in the running game last year and never identified a true top option in the backfield, so in the second round the Steelers selected bruiser Le’Veon Bell from Michigan State. He’ll instantly be a favorite in blue-collar Pittsburgh with his ability to grind out yards after contact.
But Wheaton could ultimately end up being the most dynamic of the three (though I am a big Jones fan). He has the speed to run under Big Ben’s bombs downfield and should be a contributor in the slot from day one.
And if the Steelers get creative, he’s already proven to be a factor in the running game. You may not have been too familiar with Wheaton’s body of work before the draft, but he was one of the top value selections in the first three rounds and is a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.