Why Markus is on the list
A third-round pick in the 2013 draft, Wheaton has all the tools to become a favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger. A disciplined route runner with plus speed (4.4-flat forty at 2013 combine), strong hands and a high football IQ, Wheaton looked ready to break out as a rookie after an impressive preseason.
Disappointment followed in the regular season. Wheaton managed just six receptions and missed four games with a hand injury that eventually required surgery.
The talent is undeniably there, and Tomlin doesn't hide the fact that Pittsburgh is depending on Wheaton to become a contributor. We think he'll step up.
The finger injuries had a detrimental effect on Wheaton's learning curve. He was on the field for just 161 snaps, including six games where he saw five snaps or less. He made one start, a Week 4 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in which he finished with three receptions for 26 yards. If the rookie year wasn't a complete washout, it was close.
Wheaton's biggest competition for the X receiver role is Martavis Bryant, a fourth-round pick out of Clemson. Bryant has the ability to develop into a legitimate red-zone threat for the Steelers, but consider it a surprise -- and a considerable disappointment for team brass -- if Wheaton can't hold off Bryant for the starting job.
Wheaton's biggest challenge might be on the mental side.
Expectations are old hat for Wheaton. During his first training camp, former Steelers safety Ryan Clark said Wheaton was already a better and more complete receiver than Mike Wallace. Now Wheaton must prove he can capably fill his predecessor's shoes. Can Wheaton come close to replicating Wallace's production?
Asking for a Pro Bowl-level season is pushing it, but we expect Wheaton to earn Roethlisberger's trust as the season progresses and make the progression the team hoped for in 2013.
Will Wheaton and Brown be in the conversation as the NFL's best wide receiver duo by January? Probably not, but don't be surprised if they crack the back end of the list this time next year.