Steel City Underground is doing a series where we will break down each instance of double-dipping in the NFL draft during the Mike Tomlin area. By double-dipping we mean drafting two players of the same position. This has happened much more than most may think, which is detailed in the original article. We will be taking a look at the rosters prior to those players being drafted along with whatever happened with these players.
During his college career, Markus Wheaton wasn’t known for his size, but for his speed and quickness. He was a big playmaker at Oregon State. His NFL.com Draft Profile described him as:
In 2012, Wheaton became the Beavers’ all-time leader in receptions. Wheaton used his track speed to break off long runs from short routes and get behind defenders for big plays.
Justin Brown was a lesser name compared to Wheaton, but the Steelers have always had success drafting wide receivers. His NFL.com Draft Profile described him as:
Standing 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, he’s a big target who also sports 4.60 40 speed. Brown does a good job of catching the ball, but he’s not a real strong route runner.
Brown seemed like he had potential with his size and blocking. The Steelers need at receiver gave him an opportunity to make the team.
Going into the 2013 season, the Steelers depth chart had their cornerstone, but the rest was filled with mystery. Antonio Brown was entering the second year of his five-year extension. Most didn’t expect Brown to have 1,499 yards that year.
The Steelers next two receivers were Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery. Sanders was a former 3rd round draft pick, and though he’d been solid during his tenure he’d never quite reached his potential in Pittsburgh. Cotchery would go on to catch 10 touchdowns in the 2013 season. Up until then he had done very little in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers had a clear need at wide receiver and were expected to address the position in the draft.
Wheaton had an odd career in Pittsburgh. His rookie year was hampered by injuries and he was stuck behind the established starters at the position. He eventually got the chance to start, but never quite reached the potential everybody thought he had. Wheaton had some very noteworthy performances during his time in Pittsburgh, particularly versus Seattle in 2015 when he caught 9 balls for 201 yards and a touchdown, but he was never able to produce consistently.
Expectations were high for Wheaton going into the 2016 season due to Martavis Bryant‘s suspension, but injuries sidelined him for the majority of the season. The Steelers depth at the position and Wheaton’s lack of reliability led to the Steelers predictably letting Wheaton walk in free agency. This offseason he signed a contract with the Chicago Bears.
Brown’s career wasn’t as exciting. Though the Steelers had past success with 6th round receivers named Brown, they didn’t hit gold twice. Brown was on the practice squad for the entirety of his rookie season. His sophomore year he had received some hype going into the season and even got the opportunity to start early in the year. Unfortunately for Brown, he was reduced to a back-up after underperforming, and would be waived following the regular season so the Steelers could sign Le’Veon Bell‘s playoff fill-in, RB Ben Tate.
Like many of their double-dips, the success rate for the Steelers drafting two wide receivers was about 50-50. It’s difficult calling Wheaton a bust. He was a solid player who never had fortune on his side and faced frequent injuries. Calling Brown a bust is quite easy. Regardless, taking two stabs at filling a single position paid off in the interim.