Steelers’ Wheaton moves to slot receiver in training camp
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton doesn’t mind where he plays, as long as he’s on the field.
That’s good news for the Steelers, who are moving the talented wide receiver to the slot during training camp to add another dimension to an already-dangerous offensive attack.
“We have a lot of potential,” Wheaton said. “I guess we’ll see how it goes.”
The results were positive in 2014 as the Steelers flourished on offense, breaking franchise records and finishing No. 2 in the league. Wheaton was a big part of the attack, playing on the outside and in the slot at times.
That the Steelers’ 2013 third-round pick now gets an entire offseason to learn the nuances of a position he never played in college at Oregon State.
“We ran a lot of two-receiver sets in college, so I was outside a lot,” Wheaton said.
Wheaton estimated the switch to slot came around mid-season last year, when he had a package of simplified plays designed for him.
Wheaton has worked on the outside and in the slot during training camp practices, and says he doesn’t have a preference on where he plays.
“As long as I’m on the field, I’m happy,” Wheaton said.
Wheaton bounced back from an injury-plagued rookie campaign that saw the 24-year-old catch just six passes for 64 yards.
Wheaton appeared in all 16 regular-season games and made 11 starts. He set personal bests with 53 receptions for 644 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think I grew a lot from my rookie year,” Wheaton said. “I think the numbers say so and I expect to do the same thing this year.”
Wheaton’s growth was helped by the emergence of deep threat Martavis Bryant, who caught eight touchdowns as a rookie. Adding Antonio Brown, the NFL leader in receptions and yards and Le’Veon Bell, who finished second in the league with 1,361 rushing and 2,215 all-purpose rushing and receiving yards, solidified the Ben Roethlisberger-led attack as one of the most potent in the NFL.
Wheaton feels the group can only improve.
“Just the young guys getting experience in that itself will help a lot,” Wheaton said. “Whether I’m on the inside or the outside, just being on the field, getting experience and seeing coverages will help.”
The Steelers offense appeared to be in midseason form Friday against Jacksonville, needing just six plays to march 80 yards in a little more than three minutes. Wheaton hauled in the two-point conversion after a Roethlisberger scramble.
“I think we showed what we needed to show,” Wheaton said. “It’s going to be a long season and a few plays won’t tell the story.”
But the Steelers offense has a lot of potential and Wheaton knows it. His role in this is continued improvement wherever he plays to help the offense remain as one of the NFL’s elite.
“My expectation is to make plays. as many plays as I can,” Wheaton said. “When the ball comes to me I want to catch it.”
NOTES: The Steelers signed undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Jarrod West and released quarterback Tajh Boyd. . The team was off on Tuesday and returns Wednesday for the first of the three final training camp practices this season at St. Vincent College.