Robinson: Steelers rookie Wheaton could be impact receiver
Markus Wheaton hasn't practiced a down yet with all of his new Steelers teammates. The Oregon State wide receiver won't until training camp because NFL rules prohibit a college player from taking part in drills while his school remains in session.
According to NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, Wheaton is a player who will be worth watching once he arrives in Latrobe because he could be one of the steals of the NFL Draft.
While Wheaton is mostly being called the logical replacement for Mike Wallace as the Steelers' primary speed receiver, Jeremiah thinks he is much more than that.
“He fits them well,” Jeremiah said.
He even dares to drop the name Hines Ward.
Jeremiah believes the 6-foot-1, 182-pound Wheaton soon will be as despised in Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland as he will be liked in Pittsburgh, where players with an edge, attitude and get-in-somebody's-face mentality are loved — at least if they play for the home team.
“He fits the new mold they've got there, guys who can win one-on-ones with quickness, but he's also got big-play ability with top speed and feisty toughness,” Jeremiah said.
“He's got the kind of toughness Hines Ward had when he played against Baltimore; the feistiness he brought to that offense was a huge asset. This kid is not as big as Hines (6-0, 205), but he's going to bring some of that competitiveness and feistiness.”
Pretty high praise for a player who has yet to go against Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark in practice.
“I think he's perfect there,” Jeremiah said. “You can't just label him as a possession guy. You can't just label him as just a vertical guy. He can't do all things at an elite level, but he's capable of doing everything. He's a huge chess piece (for Ben Roethlisberger) to have.”
Jeremiah, a former scout for the Ravens and Eagles, is one of the more thoughtful and less bombastic of many national analytical voices.
But that doesn't mean he lacks opinions on multiple issues, including some he believes will be closely watched during a 2013 season that remains nearly four months away.
Among them are:
• The Quarterback Upheaval.
“I can't remember having this many good young quarterbacks in their first three years. We've seen teams around these guys, Miami trying to build around (Ryan) Tannehill, Sam Bradford, they're (the Rams) trying to build around him, the Detroit Lions have (Matthew) Stafford and they bring in Reggie Bush. ... Seattle, with Russell Wilson, they bring in Percy Harvin,” Jeremiah said.
It's going to be fascinating to watch all of these young quarterbacks to see if they can take the next step.”
Roethlisberger apparently feels the same way. He told USA Today, “One year does mean a lot in this league. Let's see what happens (to these quarterbacks) in two, three years.”
Roethlisberger, by the way, won the Super Bowl in his second season.
There's your goal, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
• Is it better for an elite rookie pass rusher to be a great physical specimen like Cleveland Browns draft pick Barkevious Mingo or a high-production guy like the Steelers' Jarvis Jones?
“Jamaal Anderson (a No. 8 overall pick), Marcus Howard (former Colts draft pick), we've seen guys with high production not work out,” Jeremiah said.
“But we've seen too many of the workout guys who don't have the production fail in the NFL. If I have a choice, I'm going to go with the guys who've done it and go that route. Being productive at that position (linebacker) in that conference (the SEC), I think that counts for something. Someone at Texas Tech who has 9,000 catches, I think you can discount that.”
Jeremiah believes there will be comparisons made between Mingo and Jones for years to come.
• Will the Ravens' defense incur a dramatic falloff without potential future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?
“They might be better than they were this year. (Elvis) Dumervil will be the best pass rusher they've had opposite (Terrell) Suggs. If (injured cornerback Lardarius) Webb comes back healthy (from a knee injury), I don't think the drop-off at safety will be quite as extreme as people might think. I think they're going to generate a lot of pressure.”
Antlers for less
Remember the pre-Super Bowl furor over Lewis allegedly using deer antler extract to circumvent NFL rules banning prohibited substances that could potentially hasten recovery from an injury such as Lewis' triceps tear?
All that attention on a previously not-well-known product didn't boost deer antler extract's appeal to other athletes.
A two-pack of deer antler velvet extract was available for $7.99 last week on one of the national group coupon sites. The supposed retail price was $59.98.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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