I may not have any "sources," but I can say in confidence that this hasn't been the start to the contract year that Markus Wheaton had in mind. Be a scratch for the first two games of the season due to a nagging shoulder injury, just to come back and have three dropped passes. Critical drops, too. We're talking an end zone drop early in the game that could have changed the entire momentum going forward. Easy to say that now though, right?
The 2016 season is still young, but with the amount of depth that the Pittsburgh Steelers have at wide receiver, every game counts when you're fighting for job security. In the final year of his rookie contract, Wheaton has some tough competition. After a strong 2015 season, racking up 749 receiving yards and five touchdowns, Wheaton seems to be on track for a decent pay day come next offseason-- whether that be from the Steelers or elsewhere.
When you take a look at next year, does Pittsburgh really need Wheaton for the amount of money he may be seeking? King Antonio, the return of Martavis Bryant, and emerging star Eli Rogers out of the slot is a perfectly capable receiving corp. Both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates are locked up for two more years following 2016, providing quality depth as well.
This isn't to degrade Markus Wheaton, though. The Oregon State product has definitely proven he is an NFL caliber receiver, and belongs in the league.
But those three dropped passes on Sunday afternoon couldn't help but remind me of one name that was once in a similar situation...
No, not the Emmanuel Sanders that just had 117 receiving yards with a pair of touchdowns this week for the Denver Broncos. The Emmanuel Sanders who crushed Steelers Nation hearts with drops and fumbles at some of the most critical times when he was in black and yellow.
Now a pro bowl wide receiver, Sanders has become one of the biggest threats in the Broncos offense. Totaling 2,030 receiving yards during his four seasons in Pittsburgh, Sanders accumulated 2,539 yards for Denver in half of the time. The thought of today's Emmanuel Sanders alongside Antonio Brown is a "what if" that still haunts plenty of Steelers Nation.
While Sanders claims to have enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh, the Steelers were unwilling to match the type of money that the Denver Broncos were offering. An eerily similar predicament to what could be on the horizon for Markus Wheaton following this season.
There are plenty of teams in the NFL that are willing to pay big money for needed receiver talent. The Pittsburgh Steelers are not one of those. Teams like the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, or Buffalo Bills-- the teams that lack quality wide receiver talent-- will offer more money than the Pittsburgh Steelers will be willing to give.
I truly hope it all works out in Markus Wheaton's best interest. He has proven that he has the potential to thrive in the National Football League, and deserves a quality contract. Markus Wheaton will likely get the pay day he desires come March, but I'm not sure if it will be out of Mr. Rooney’s checkbook.