Steelers rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton staying grounded despite early success

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The team's longest play from scrimmage as well as three other catches this preseason are encouraging signs for the Steelers' rookie WR Markus Wheaton. He's not getting caught up in it, though.

Markus Wheaton hasn't had much to sulk about so far this preseason.

He appears to be a favorite target of fellow rookie quarterback Landry Jones - who hit Wheaton on a nice 45-yard completion in Monday's loss to Washington. He has four total catches for 60 yards, and a nice end-around run that went for 10 yards.

He earned praise from Steelers veteran safety Ryan Clark, who said in a radio interview Wheaton is a better all-around receiver than Mike Wallace, just not as fast. None of that is getting to Wheaton's head, though.

"I appreciate it, especially coming from a guy like Ryan," Wheaton told Ralph N. Paulk of the Tribune Review. "Then again, I realize I have a lot to build on. I'll use this game to see what I can do to get better. "It felt good to get that (45-yard) catch. It did a lot for my confidence."

In case anyone is counting, Wallace, the former Steelers receiver, had 58 yards on four catches in his first two preseason games.

Wheaton has been just one of a few young reasons for optimism in Pittsburgh. While the starters haven't played outstanding football, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, Wheaton, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Shamarko Thomas have performed well in the Steelers' two preseason games, and figure to see extensive snaps again Saturday against the Chiefs.

More reps the better for them. Jones didn't start but came in during the team's second defensive drive and played well into the third quarter. With just two full practices between the game against the Redskins and Saturday vs. the Chiefs, it's a curious decision how much starters and key back-ups will play. They turn around and play Carolina in the preseason finale the following Thursday.

It's a good time to get Wheaton and Thomas more extensive time, even running the risk of injury. Second round pick Le'Veon Bell has a mid-foot injury that will likely cost him some time, up to possibly the Steelers' Week 1 game Sept. 8 against the Tennessee Titans.

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