Markus Wheaton realizes the pressure is there, but he doesn’t mind.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-year wide receiver figures to be the best shot to replace departed starter Emmanuel Sanders, so Wheaton is OK with the early elevated expectations despite a bumpy rookie year in which he struggled to stay healthy.
“I feed off the pressure and embrace it,” Wheaton said. “Pressure is always good, I feel. Pressure can push you to get a lot better or it can break you. I feel that the pressure is always good for me because it always pushes me to get better.”
The rejuvenated Wheaton welcomed the start of training camp after a lost rookie season that resulted in two broken fingers and just six receptions for 64 yards.
“It was frustrating not being able to progress like you want to progress,” Wheaton said. “Having a setback, it feels like you’re starting over a little bit.”
Wheaton is indeed starting over, but that might not be a bad thing. He has full mobility of his pinkie finger, which required minor surgery, and said he’s healthy. Wheaton, a third-round pick out of Oregon State in 2013, also went through full offseason workouts for the first time and feels comfortable entering his second training camp.
“I’m just more relaxed,” Wheaton said. “I can go out there and play whereas last year I was thinking a lot.”
He’s working on his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger too, joining his quarterback and a group of teammates in California during the spring. The extra work already appears to be paying off as Roethlisberger floated a deep pass down the left sideline during practice on Sunday and Wheaton sprinted between two defenders to track it down. Roethlisberger expects more of the same this season.
“I’ve put a lot on him,” Roethlisberger said. “The expectation level is high. He was doing some really good things last year until he got hurt and kind of lost some confidence I think in himself, but he’s got it back.”