Markus Wheaton’s time in Pittsburgh was anything but smooth. His rookie season was marked by a nasty hand/finger injury, and he struggled to stay on the field in each of his four seasons in the Steel City.
In his final season with the Steelers, Wheaton was placed on injured reserve after injuring his shoulder leading up to the regular season, and he only dressed in three games throughout Pittsburgh’s run to the AFC Championship game.
New year and a new team for Wheaton now with the Chicago Bears, but the same issues followed him to the Windy City. Wheaton, who signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the Bears this off-season, hasn’t seen the field yet due to a myriad of health issues.
Per the Bears official website:
Wheaton participated in OTAs but underwent an appendectomy July 30 during the first week of training camp. He returned to practice Aug. 13 but promptly broke his pinkie, an injury that required surgery and has sidelined him for more than a month.
It’s at this point when Steelers fans nod sympathetically and say, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” But Wheaton is finally healthy now and ready to make his debut with the Bears, ironically against the Steelers.
For Wheaton, this is likely more about him just getting back onto the field and less about playing against his former team. Wheaton knew the writing was on the wall when he dressed for only three games in 2016 before heading to injured reserve. The Steelers are extremely deep at wide receiver, and players like Antonio Brown would certainly take precedence when new contracts were being handed out.
What do the Bears expect from Wheaton in Week 3?
"We got to see him in the off-season," said coach John Fox to the Bears official website. "He'll be hard to coax to Bourbonnais next year, just the experience he had with the appendicitis and with his finger. We're still in wait-and-see. He was out there last week in a limited basis.”
"He does have good quickness and good speed. He's been a productive receiver in this league. He had 40, 50 catches two years prior to being injured. We're excited to watch him. He looked more involved last week. I think he's got a pretty good grasp of what we're doing which is obviously helpful."
"If [Wheaton] is up and healthy, hopefully he provides that for us," said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. "It's a different group of receivers right now. Mike's completion percentage is pretty good right now; he's done a good job of that. Last year we were really good; I think we were in the top 10 in explosive passes. But right now that's an area we could improve on."
"We're hoping it creates more three-level throws," Loggains said. "There is an element of speed that comes with Markus. That is his strength and I'm hoping that he adds that kind of value to our offense."
"It's going to be interesting because Mike didn't have much time with him in OTAs and in training camp when he was up he was going with Mitchell [Trubisky] more because of Kevin and Cam [playing with Glennon]," Loggains said. "We've got to get those guys on the same page quickly. He's a guy that's played in the NFL and had production. That's a big thing for us right now."
The Bears have been decimated by injury at the receiver position, and Wheaton’s return would certainly help the Bears and Glennon in the game Sunday vs. Pittsburgh. Steelers fans know what Wheaton can do if healthy, they just hope he waits until Week 4 to show the Bears his full potential.