Red zone the focus; depth chart the big news

Posted Aug 3, 2014

The Steelers worked through on again, off again rain for a productive day. First-round pick Ryan Shazier's injury labeled a "boo-boo."

LATROBE, Pa. - The biggest news of the day didn’t necessarily come from practice, but instead the release of the team’s initial depth chart. And it included wide receiver Markus Wheaton as the starter opposite Antonio Brown.

“It doesn’t mean anything. It’s still early in the season,” said Wheaton. “We haven’t played a game yet. We haven’t played a preseason game.”

Wheaton, though, is enjoying the competition for the spot, and knows it’s ongoing.

“I love it,” said Wheaton. “I am glad they are pushing me to take that spot. I want that spot. There is going to be a lot of competition and a lot of growth from the competition.”

Wheaton, who is in his second season, has had an impressive offseason and training camp, but still needs to step up in the preseason to showcase what he can do.

“I want to impress myself,” said Wheaton. “I am trying to get better. I am looking for growth every day. I think with that growth I will prove I can hold that spot down. I just have to continue making plays, make the tough catches every day, and minimize mistakes.”

During camp Wheaton has been watching film during every down moment, including heading to the receivers meeting room until about 1 a.m. some nights.

“I am in the film room all of the time,” said Wheaton. “I stay up late, which isn’t good. I am always checking out my game and figuring out how I can get better.

“There have been times I have fallen asleep in the meeting room and thought I have to get to bed.”

His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

“He’s working really hard,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “I like his approach to it. He’s a detail guy. I see him not only working out here before and after but into the evening. He’s just taking a really professional approach. I think he understands what we expect and what we need from him and the gravity of it.”

Some of the keys from the day:

* On again, off again rain never slowed things down, and Tomlin was happy with the way the day played out.

“Another good day’s work,” said Tomlin. “The emphasis of the work today was red zone (and) just continuing to push our way through the various forms of situational football from an installation standpoint. A lot of guys (are) working hard (and there are) guys coming back to us from an injury standpoint, continually, but nothing of any significance today from an injury standpoint, just the normal bumps and bruises. We’re doing well in that regard.”

* First-round pick Ryan Shazier put a hit on running back Le’Veon Bell, but hobbled off the field afterwards. Tomlin described the injury after practice as “a little boo-boo.”

* Dri Archer had an electrifying run of about 40 yards, one that had fellow rookie Stephon Tuitt on the sideline saying, “All right Dri, all right Dri.”

* Justin Brown, who is practicing despite breaking his nose, had some nice catches, including leaping for a touchdown in the end zone.

The Steelers will practice on Monday, Aug. 4 at 2:55 pm at Saint Vincent College, and will be off on Tuesday. They will practice again on Wednesday, Aug. 6 and Thursday, Aug. 7 in advance of the team’s preseason opener against the New York Giants on Aug. 9.