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Insider Only Steelers – Thursday: Markus Wheaton ready to roll but will his role actually expand?


By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Rookie wideout Markus Wheaton said the Pittsburgh Steelers talk daily about the team’s status and how it can improve from the previous game.
The Steelers had a lot to discuss Wednesday afternoon, and veteran safety Ryan Clark — a defensive captain — commented on what transpired.
“You leave that meeting, taking the things that you learned and the things that the other leaders on the team have said, and you go out and try to live that way,” Clark said Thursday afternoon before practice.
“You try to bring that to the locker room. You try to keep everybody positive. You’ve got to try to keep everything moving forward to just one goal this week. And that goal is to beat the Chicago Bears.”
Clark added that the overwhelming sentiment among the players was to concentrate on what the Steelers (0-2) need to do to beat the Bears (2-0) Sunday night at 8:30 at Heinz Field.
“When you get really successful, I think you can become — as far as the players, coaches, organization, fans and the media — you become very big-picture oriented,” Clark said. “In Pittsburgh, we’re Super Bowl oriented. Everything has to point to the Super Bowl.
“Everything has to point to that ultimate prize. (But) if you don’t focus on the day-to-day. If you don’t focus on the week-to-week, and if you don’t focus on beating the team that you play Sunday, you’ll never get to that goal. But because we’re always in the hunt and because that’s always very present for us, that’s what we always focus on.

“I think this week, we understand that we’re not a good enough football team to focus on those things,” Clark added. “We’ve got to focus on beating the Chicago Bears. I think that losing two games has put us in that mode, that we know we need to win one, and that’s been everybody’s mindset. And I think that’s really good for our team.”
Clark noted that no player stood up and said to win one for the Gipper, or any other emotional speech such as that, but if there were any misunderstandings before about what needs to be done to get the club back on track there shouldn’t be any issues now.
“In relationships, sometimes, until you understand what the other people around you are thinking you can’t make decisions or you can’t move forward,” Clark said. “You can’t move on together. So, let’s come together to see if we’re all on the same page, and we really were. Everybody was on the same page with the understanding of how they felt about the situation.”
Wheaton Ready to Roll

Wheaton, a third-round pick this past spring, has no catches, just 12 offensive snaps and two kickoff returns (with a long runback for 25 yards) on his resume through two games.
“Yeah, it’s a slow start, but all I can do is to continue to stay in my book and pick Ben’s mind and keep learning to prove to the coaches that I’m ready,” Wheaton said Thursday. “(But) I have the same mindset that I had going into the other games.
“I’m just trying to continue to mature, learn from the other guys and be ready to play. … There’s obviously a lot of stuff that I need to work on, but yeah, definitely. I feel like I’m ready. Game speed probably was the biggest difference for me going into this season.”
In marketing, it’s all about location. If that holds true for Wheaton, he should be in good shape for the remainder of the season, because his locker at the team’s practice facility is next to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s stall. And the rookie has lobbied his quarterback for a little more action.
Roethlisberger said Wednesday that Wheaton has been relatively quiet so far this season.
“Oh, yeah. I’m bothering him all the time, trying to pick his brain and learn and trying to continue to grow,” Wheaton said. “I’m definitely quiet, so when I am talking to him it’s in more of a whisper. But I do try to pick his brain a lot.
“(And) it’s definitely nice (locker placement), because any time I have a question he’s right here. I don’t have to go across the hall or anything like that. But I don’t talk too much, so it’s cool.”
Wheaton acknowledged that it’s difficult to show what he can do without many reps, but with help from Roethlisberger and wideout Jerricho Cotchery his time could come soon.
“Cotchery, I’m always by his side when we’re out on the field, and if you watch in practice I’m probably by his side,” Wheaton said. “He’s been doing it for a long time, so he’s a good guy to learn from.
“I would say that I gravitated to him more than him coming to me. But he definitely has been a big help whenever I’ve needed anything from him.”
Cotchery embraced his role.
“I’m always going to help a younger guy, and Markus really wants to learn,” Cotchery said. “He’s a hard worker, and he’s very talented. It’s only a matter of time before he makes some big plays for us.’

About The Author

Dale Grdnic

TIOPS Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Grdnic is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports, covering the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Football. Dale has covered the Pittsburgh Sports scene for over 15 years with various publications

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