Wheaton determined to get it right next time

Check out the highlight photos from the Steelers vs Ravens game. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 20-17 on December 27th 2015.

In the immediate aftermath, Markus Wheaton blamed himself.

"I didn't make the play," the Steelers' wide receiver had said in the locker room at M&T Bank Stadium minutes after a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on fourth-and-15 from the Steelers' 37-yard line had fallen incomplete with 1:53 remaining against the Ravens.

After further review, Wheaton's opinion remained unchanged.

"We needed me to make the play and I didn't," he said. "It is what it is."

What it was last Sunday, with the Ravens' game hanging in the balance, was a 50-50 ball that Wheaton almost came down with but didn't, one that may or may not have been deflected ever so slightly by cornerback Shareece Wright in the vicinity of the Baltimore 35.

"When I watched it (on tape) I don't think (Wright) got a hand on the ball," Wheaton maintained. "He flashed by, he made a good play but I don't think he touched it. He made it difficult because he flashed at the last second. But at the end of the day it's just about figuring out how to make the play.

"Nobody really wants to hear the excuses and why you didn't make the play. You just have to figure out how to make it. If it comes down to something like that next time I have to make it."

Wright "flashed" by going up for the ball with Wheaton and reaching with his left arm to either knock the ball down or at the very least impede Wheaton's vision.

Wheaton also thought, after his video review, that he needed to be a little more precise at the beginning of his route as well as at its conclusion.

"I could have widened him a little more to try to stack him after the release," Wheaton explained. "I got inside clean. I widened him early; he broke outside, I broke inside of him. If I try to get on top of him then he's kinda like dead, so any ball I can slow up and play it out in front of me. If I stack him, if I get on top of him, he's dead."

After Wheaton achieved inside position, Wright was in chase mode running between Wheaton and the sideline.

Had Wheaton "stacked" Wright, Wright would have been chasing from behind and in a much more difficult position from which to play the ball.

"I didn't work to try to stack him," Wheaton emphasized. "If I'd have worked to try to stack him, I would have had a better chance at the ball."

Wheaton slowed up as Roethlisberger's pass was arriving and eventually attempted to high-point the ball.

But that, Wheaton maintained, is how such a play needs to be made.

"That's what you want in that situation," he said. "The last thing you want is for him to over-throw you. In that situation it's a great ball."

For Wheaton and the Steelers, the play resonates as a reminder of how quickly and how dramatically games can irreversibly change, and of the importance of maintaining focus on and attention to detail throughout an entire game.

That's something Wheaton and the Steelers will be even more determined to do in Sunday's regular-season finale in Cleveland in the wake of what transpired in Baltimore.

"We did a lot of things wrong and still had a chance to win the game," Wheaton said. "That tells you how intense and how critical every play is.

"I think we all have confidence in each other, confidence in the coaching staff.  We're having a great season. We just have to finish when we need to finish."

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