The Pittsburgh Steelers offense was dynamic entering their Week 12 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Martavis Bryant and DeAngelo Williams have given teams fits throughout the 2015 season. Want to hear a scary proposition? Despite the loss, the team is heading into Week 13 with an offense even more prolific than a week ago.
How? Simple, the answer is Markus Wheaton. The No. 2 wide out on the team's depth chart has been anything but prolific this season. In fact, before his huge game against the Seahawks Wheaton had only 273 yards receiving and one touchdown. In the Week 12 game he caught 201 yards on 9 receptions and a touchdown. As he almost doubled his season statistics in one game, it gives the Steelers a dimension to their offense they had been missing throughout the first 11 games.
The Steelers offense has long been considered a "pick your poison" offense. Most defenses want to take Antonio Brown out of the game. Pretty smart game plan considering Brown blew up the NFL stage in the month of November. Teams will send double coverage to Brown's side and bracket the shifty wide receiver try to limit his space.
So how do defenses stop Martavis Bryant on the other side? Running a two deep safety system with the hope of keeping plays in front of them is one way, and it gives the cornerbacks some help over the top against the tall and powerful Bryant.
This allows the middle of the field to be open and typically manned by a linebacker. These are matchups Heath Miller typically exploits, but Miller doesn't have the speed to burn a team after the catch. He has become a solid possession option for the team, and arguably the greatest tight end in Steelers history, but this is where Wheaton comes into play.
Coordinators think they have the solution to stopping the Steelers, but how do you account for the speed of Wheaton in the slot, and still keep your bases covered on the outside? The answer is it is damn near impossible. The Seahawks found out the hard way. Commit all you have to stopping Brown and Bryant, and now you have Markus Wheaton torching you time and time again.
Wheaton brings a new dynamic to the table, and for Ben Roethlisberger to finally show trust in the third year receiver was a pleasant surprise to fans everywhere. When the Steelers want to spread out a defense, there isn't anyone better in the league, from a personnel standpoint. Without Wheaton, the team is missing that third weapon to break the back's of opposing defenses.
Wheaton has a tough task ahead of him, and that is duplicating his Week 12 performance down the stretch. If he can provide just half of what he gave the team in Seattle, 30 points a game seems to be on the low end of what this offense can do when clicking on all cylinders and keeping everyone healthy. In my opinion, Wheaton could be the 'x' factor for this offense in their final 5 games, and beyond that.