Saying that Markus Wheaton is hard on himself is an understatement. The second-year receiver admits to being his own worst critic, and no matter how many ways you try to do it, you aren't going to get him to compliment himself.
"Not at all," laughed Wheaton.
But others will, especially after Wheaton's 16-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night, where he did an impressive job of dragging his feet to stay in bounds.
"He's been impressive, he's been impressive," said receiver Lance Moore. "That one touchdown play was a great example of the things that he's been doing and the things that he's shown and is capable of doing. It was just a great route. The route was called and he had man to man coverage out there. He was able to win and score a big touchdown and the pro catch where you have to drag your toes up and stuff like that at the end. That's what it's all about right there."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who put the ball right where it needed to be on the play, likes what he is seeing from Wheaton who right now is the team's starter opposite Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown.
"He's learning and growing fast. And we need him to," said Roethlisberger. "That's what is great, he doesn't make the same mistake twice. He is busting his butt every day in practice.
"I grabbed him upstairs and talked to him about something that he did a little wrong in the game. He had nothing to do with the play but he was heartbroken that he screwed something up that he probably shouldn't have. He puts in that work. He's watched Antonio and knows what it takes to be a pro."
Last year wasn't what Wheaton had hoped from his rookie season, hampered by finger injuries that required surgery. While he played in 12 games, he finished with just six receptions for 64 yards and no touchdowns. But the potential was there, and after a strong offseason was slated as a starter during training camp.
"As of now I am in the position, so it's my spot to lose," said Wheaton. "I want to improve on everything so I want to make sure I am capable of holding down the position, that they have full confidence in me when we get out on the field. I still have a week or so to do that.
"I think I have a long ways to go, especially after watching the film I think I have a long ways to go. I made a good play in the game; Ben made it easy for me. I feel like I need to improve on everything. I want to be a good all-around player. I want to improve on everything out there."
Wheaton should get a little more time to show what he can do this Thursday when the Steelers travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles. Normally in the third preseason game the starters play at least a half, so that gives him plenty of opportunities to earn the confidence from others he is seeking.
"It's huge," said Wheaton. "Every week is huge. I want to build their confidence in me, whether it's with Ben, the coaching staff; every time I touch the field in practice or game I want them to have confidence in me. Whether it's improving on my study habits, my route-running, catching the ball, I want to continue to grow and hopefully it shows this game."