Ever since he was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Markus Wheaton has been quiet for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A few times last year, he would showcase why the Steelers drafted him, but most of the time, he was just hiding on the sidelines waiting to make big plays.
This year, making big plays is exactly what Wheaton has been doing for the Steelers. Wheaton has three touchdowns, with one of them coming from a career-long 72-yard reception from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It was just two weeks ago in a game against the Seattle Seahawks that Wheaton had a career day. Wheaton had nine receptions for 201 yards against the Legion of Boom secondary, and even scored a touchdown.
That was Wheaton’s first game over 200 yards. None of Wheaton’s game numbers come close to his against the Seahawks. His second highest game, statistically speaking, was against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 last year when he had six receptions for 97 yards.
Why all of a sudden is Wheaton such a big target for Ben? Wheaton has been getting more receptions due to the popularity of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Brown is arguably the top receiver in the league, which makes defensive coordinators put double the pressure on him. In most games, it is not shocking to see Brown flocked by two defenders.
Same goes for Bryant. Even though he’s not as flashy and popular as Brown, he’s a big target. Bryant stands tall at 6’5 and is a big red zone target for Big Ben. A lot of times, especially in the red zone, Bryant is also flanked with double coverage. That opens up space for players like Wheaton, and even tight ends Jesse James and Heath Miller.
The Steelers certainly won’t complain about the amount of attention that Wheaton is receiving. Big Ben will target Wheaton more in the coming last few games if double coverage is given to Brown and Bryant.
The Steelers next game is Sunday, December 13, against the Cincinnati Bengals.