Steelers take Oregon State receiver Wheaton hoping he can replace Wallace
The Steelers drafted a speedy and relatively unknown receiver in the third round four years ago who turned out pretty well.
They're trying again this year.
The Steelers finished the second day of the NFL Draft Friday by picking Oregon State's Markus Wheaton with their third-round selection (79th overall) with the intention of him filling the hole left by the departure of Mike Wallace via free agency.
“He is a fast guy, make no mistake about it,” Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “He can stretch the field.”
Wheaton ran a disappointing 4.45 40-yard dash at the Combine in February but said he can, and has, run a 4.3 before. Wheaton (5-11, 182) did not run at Oregon State's Pro Day in March.
“It is hard for anybody to run faster than Mike, but this guy does run fast,” Haley said. “When you have guys that you like, you aren't rooting for them to run fast and get a lot of attention (at the Combine). It probably hurt his feelings and made him feel bad, but we were happy because when you put on the tape he plays fast.”
Wheaton continued to get better over his four years at Oregon State, culminating with a first-team All-Pac 10 senior season in which he caught 91 passes for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I am ready to play football,” Wheaton said. “I am glad that I came off the board and I know where I am going to play.”
Although Wheaton played the majority of his collegiate career as an outside receiver, he is also capable of playing in the slot.
“I envision myself anywhere,” Wheaton said. “If I am needed to play inside, I feel that I can do both.”
Wheaton had 164 catches over his final two seasons at Oregon State while also showing the ability to run the ball. He carried the ball at least 20 times in each of his last three seasons.
“The numbers aren't huge from a yard-per-catch standpoint, but he is one of the guys that we thought with the ball in his hands he gets even more exciting,” Haley said. “That leaves the door open for us to do a lot of things with this guy that fits in with (Antonio Brown) and Emmanuel (Sanders).
“We like the guys we have here but to get another young guy in here to compete and push the young guys is always a good thing.”