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Steelers WR Markus Wheaton embraces slot role

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Antonio Brown is the alpha dog in the Pittsburgh Steelers' receiving corps. Martavis Bryant is making the leap to full-time No. 2 in his second season. With both players gobbling up snaps on the outside, it leaves one position open for third-year wideout Markus Wheaton: the slot.

Wheaton ran 119 routes from the slot last season, per Pro Football Focus -- third-most behind Lance Moore, no longer with the team, and Justin Brown -- but caught only nine passes from the position.

"The plays I had last year were customized for me," Wheaton said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "They made it out so I had some simple stuff. Being there full time, I am going to see a lot more."

At 5-foot-11, 182-pounds with speed to burn, the 24-year-old owns the character traits to play the slot, but needs the reps to truly become a weapon for Ben Roethlisberger.

"I wouldn't say that it is out of my comfort zone, but there are things I need to learn that are different from the outside," Wheaton said. "Being on the field last year, I learned a lot in terms of reading the defenses and seeing things. Moving me inside, I am still seeing a lot of the same things."

Wheaton got votes of confidence from both Big Ben and Brown regarding his potential in the slot. 

"It's not difficult, it is just understanding how to run your routes," Brown said on playing the slot. "(Wheaton) is super fast and quick, and that's what you need because you are facing that third corner or linebacker a lot. On third downs, nine times out of 10 that's where the ball is going to go. It's just about being on the same page with Ben."

With the Steelers at their best in three-receiver sets -- with Le'Veon Bell the lone back -- Wheaton's mastery of the slot could prove to be the cherry on top of an explosive offense that already boasts a potent mixture of power, speed and versatility.

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