Over the past couple weeks I have frequently dived into how the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver position will need upgraded before next season, with the fact that both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery are free agents and one or both could be gone in the offseason.
However, with all of the upgrades needed on the defensive side of the ball as well, it may not be possible for general manager Kevin Colbert to get franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger an extra weapon on the outside.
If that is the case, it will put a lot of pressure on youngster Markus Wheaton to develop in a hurry before next season begins.
That leaves one big question unanswered: Is Wheaton even ready to take the next step?
The third-round pick out of Oregon State did some nice things in camp last summer, leading one to believe that he would be a contributor right off the bat.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen.
Wheaton was hampered by a broken pinky finger on his right hand that required surgery and forced him to miss four games in the first half of the season. Once he got back on the field, his opportunities were limited as the Steelers’ fourth receiver.
He then suffered another injury, this one to the middle finger on his right hand, slowed him down again. Wheaton ended up with just six receptions for 64 yards.
But while the numbers were far lower than anyone would have imagined, Wheaton offers hope for the future.
But is that future next season?
I foresee Wheaton making much more of an impact in Year 2 in the NFL, but I just don’t see that impact being enough for the Steelers to be comfortable with him as their No. 2 option.
It is going to take some time for him to potentially grow into that role. By projecting that next season, I feel expectations will be set too high on the youngster.
Wheaton may be able to deliver some big plays next season, but ultimately the Steelers shouldn’t count on him just yet to fill a potentially huge void at the wide receiver position.