Pittsburgh Steelers Markus Wheaton
by Bo Marchionte
The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their defense. The ability to find the Jerry Olsavsky and James Harrison's of the league keeps the Steel Curtain going. What might surprise you ? Their recent track record of picking receivers, especially third round receivers. Between 1992 and 2012, 90 receivers have been selected in the third round of the NFL Draft and only 11 of those players have reached 1,000 yards receiving. The Green Bay Packers have two of those 11 along with the Pittsburgh Steelers with Hines Ward and Mike Wallace. Ward has retired. Wallace has moved to Miami and South Beach bringing the Steelers newest third round selection rookie Markus Wheaton.
"A lot of people are saying that," smiled Wheaton after training camp practice referencing the comparisons between him and Wallace. "He's Mike, and I'm Markus. Obviously I'm not established in this league, he is." Wheaton left Oregon State as the Beavers record holder in receptions (227), and although he didn't test fast at the NFL Combine running a 4.5 forty, he plays much quicker. The Steelers will be counting on the rookie early to keep defenses honest and not crowding the box in confidence Pittsburgh can't get deep.
"I'm learning. Trying my best to pick it up as fast as I can," said Wheaton. "I have made some mistakes but I think that comes with the territory." Helping Wheaton avoid those rookie mistakes is Steelers Coach Richard Mann. "Coach Mann is much more old school," laughs Wheaton compared to his college coach Brent Brennan. Coach B (Brennan), on the other hand is younger more energetic. He'll run around with you and chase you down the field. The personable rookie says "Coach Mann will have us see it on film and talk about it." Different coaches, different parts of the United States. A lot for the rookie to take in but he seems to have a great grasp of things thus far.
"There where a couple teams I thought I'd go to," says Wheaton looking back at the NFL Draft. Patriots. The Panthers. A couple other teams. Teams that I talked to a lot more than here. I talked with the Steelers at the combine, and that was about it." Teammate and rookie Le'Veon Bell who had several visits to Pittsburgh, leading up to the draft. The brief few minutes of our interview, you could quickly notice Wheaton is a competitor and wants nothing more to compete.
His senior season at Oregon State he had 91 catches for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns. Most noticeable during training camp and something I learned afterwards was Wheaton's ability to run with the football. "I carried the ball quite a bit at Oregon State, and a lot in high school," said Wheaton. Several times Wheaton took a hand off just adding another wrinkle to what he can give the Steelers offense in 2013.
Talking with plenty of players never once wanting any to fail, I can tell you this there are always a few that you speak with that you hope do exceptionally better than the rest; Wheaton is one of those players. If the talent matches his calm, welcoming demeanor the Steelers can add him as their third 1,000 yard receiver taken in round three.