On Tuesday August 13 the Pittsburgh Steelers officially placed wide receiver Plaxico Burress on the injured reserve list and now the question buzzing around Pittsburgh is who is going to step into Burress’s role as the Steelers’ number three receiver?
The competition now opens up between veteran Jerricho Cotchery and rookie Markus Wheaton. Both receivers played in the Steelers first preseason game against the Giants. Wheaton had one catch for eight yards and Cotchery had no catches.
Cotchery played all of last season for the Steelers as the number four receiver, collecting 205 yards receiving and no touchdowns. Cotchery is a 10-year veteran who’s only had one 1,000-yard season back in 2007 with the New York Jets. He is not an incredibly fast player but his experience helps him with reading coverages and running routes.
Cotchery has never been to a pro bowl and while he might have the experience and age over the young Wheaton I don’t believe that he is a good fit for the Steelers’ offense. Because he has lost a step, he doesn’t help in the Steelers’ dink and dunk pass game that requires receivers to be able to run after the catch. However, his ability to block corners on the edge makes him an asset in the Steelers’ running game which is probably the biggest reason that he is in contention for this receiving job in my opinion.
Wheaton was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of this year’s NFL draft. Wheaton led Oregon State in yards last season, accumulating 1,244 yards to go with 11 touchdowns. He was also selected to the first team All Pac-12 last season as a senior, and he is Oregon State’s all-time leader in receptions.
The rookie Wheaton is a good fit for the Steelers offense; he is just like another Antonio Brown. He is quick and explosive off the line and is able to make defenders miss in open field. The former track star has the speed to break open plays and turn short passes into 70-yard touchdowns. He might not be one of the tallest players on the field at 5-foot-11 but he has great hands and big play potential which you can never have enough of.
I believe the upside to Wheaton is much higher than what it is for Cotchery. Give the young guy more time in the preseason so he can learn the offense and have him replace Burress. That’s what he was brought in for, so why not give him the reigns and see what he can do. This position battle should be a no-brainer for the Steelers; they have a great fit for the system that they want to run, so why not let the rookie get the experience and learn the offense.