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Can Markus Wheaton be the Steelers' next stud receiver?

Wheaton has the talent, so the question now is whether or not he can get on the same page as his quarterback.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Markus Wheaton was not terrible last season. That's not to say that the Steelers young wide receiver was good. It seems like a lot of folks think he sucked, and I disagree with that assessment.

The fact that Wheaton played in all 16 games and started 11 of them in 2014 was somewhat of an accomplishment on its own after an injury-riddled rookie season. He caught 53 balls for 644 yards and two touchdowns last year. I would say he did okay for a second-year player who only caught six passes as a rookie.

One major problem I did see with Wheaton on film last season was that he and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger simply couldn't get on the same page for much of the season. No way of knowing who was right and who was wrong on those plays, but all too often it seemed Wheaton would zig when Big Ben thought he was going to zag. Some of those plays were big-time missed opportunities. A few also led to turnovers, which is always no bueno. Unless something crazy happens, Roethlisberger is going to be the quarterback in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future, so Wheaton is going to have to get on the same page with him.

Maybe that should give me pause about picking him as the Steelers' breakout player for this season. But I saw a lot of good things from Wheaton last season as well. He runs crisp routes when he's sure of what he is supposed to do. He has a real knack for creating separation after he comes out of his cuts.

Wheaton was a consistent deep threat no matter who lined up across from him. The only question tended to be whether Roethlisberger actually knew Wheaton was running a go route or not. I would expect them to "know" each other a lot better this season, their third year together, so the misfires from last season could turn into big plays this year.

He does have his work cut out for him this year, but I actually believe the competition is going to bring out the best in Wheaton.

Most of his issues as far as I can tell were mental and not physical. I would expect him to get that mental side of it down now that he has a full 16 games of experience. His quarterback should also feel a lot more comfortable throwing the ball to him going into this year. Provided he stays healthy I expect Markus Wheaton to build on his performance from 2014 and have an outstanding year.