Did We Forget? Wheaton Was Drafted To Replace Wallace
In 2013 Steelers fans were concerned with the loss of Mike Wallace. In the draft, the team selected Oklahoma State WR Markus Wheaton, who was viewed as the replacement for Wallace, who departed via free agency to Miami. Like Wallace, Wheaton had similar measurables from his height to both players having been selected in the third round.
A number of setbacks kept Wheaton from significant playing time in 2013. With a franchise record-shattering season by counterpart WR Antonio Brown, the name Mike Wallace is all but forgotten in Pittsburgh. However, the pressure to perform is still on Wheaton, who is now expected to step into the role vacated by Emmanuel Sanders.
The perception is Wheaton must put up huge numbers to fill the vacancies left by his predecessors, however, Sanders numbers were not All-Pro statistics, and he too suffered from injuries that got his professional football career off to a slow start:
Emmanuel Sanders Receiving Stats
Similarly, Mike Wallace’s production slumped in his last year with the Steelers. His numbers mirror Sanders’ with both players behind Antonio Brown, who lead the team in receiving both in 2012 and 2013. Wallace’s numbers are skewed by longer touchdown receptions, but he actually had less receptions than Sanders in their final days wearing a Steelers jersey:
Mike Wallace Receiving Stats
Where does this leave Wheaton? For starters, the pressure of no longer being Mike Wallace’s replacement should ease the burden on Markus. The expectations, however, are great, but the perception is higher than what it needs to be.
Based on their NFL combine performances, Wheaton measures up with both players. Should he stay healthy, I believe #11 will become a significant contributor to the Steeler offense:
|Ht||Wt||40-yd dash||10-yd split||20-yd split||20-ss||3-cone||Vert||Broad||BP|
|6 ft 0 in||199 lb||4.28 s||1.43 s||2.45 s||4.27 s||6.90 s||40.0 in||10 ft 9 in||14 reps|
|5 ft 11 in||186 lb||4.40 s||1.49 s||2.46 s||4.10 s||6.64 s||39.5 in||10 ft 6 in||12 reps|
|5 ft 11 in||189 lb||4.40 s||1.59 s||2.50 s||4.02 s||6.80 s||37 in||10 ft 0.0 in||20 reps|
In an offense where Brown is clearly the #1 receiver, it’s reasonable to think Wheaton can haul in 60 catches and 6 touchdowns: an average of 3.5 receptions per game with a touchdown every other contest.
Matching or exceeding these numbers will make fans forget Sanders or Wallace ever played for the black and gold, and the Steelers offense will not miss a beat.