Markus Wheaton's rookie year wasn't what he was hoping for, hampered not just by one surgery on his pinky finger, but multiple surgeries that forced him to wear a splint on it that he had to try and play with.
But in his second season, Wheaton is making big strides. He is healthy, competing for the opening opposite Antonio Brown, and is a player with a lot more confidence than he had after the injury occurred.
Wheaton talked about his progress during the team's minicamp.
What changes have you seen in yourself since last season?**
"I am just more comfortable. I don't have to think as much when I hear the play in the huddle. I don't have to think as much going up to the line. I can play faster when I don't have to think as much."
How important is it to feel that kind of confidence?
"It's everything. That is my opinion, I think confidence is everything. Whether it's golf, baseball, or basketball, confidence in any sport is everything. With me getting injured and losing that confidence I lost a little bit of my game, but it's back now."
What impact did your injury have on you last season?"I couldn't play for those four weeks. When I came back it was getting used to playing with the splint. I don't think I slowed down. It was trying to deal with the injury."
Was it tougher than you thought doing that with the splint?"Definitely. Trying to play with the splint on I couldn't go out there and play as freely and fast as I wanted to. I am healthy now and I am comfortable and relaxed out there."
Steelers veterans and rookies participate in day 3 of the 2014 Minicamp at the Steelers' practice facility.
Are you gearing up for that starting spot?**
"Oh yeah. I am pretty sure if you ask anybody else they will say the same thing. Everyone wants that spot. It hasn't been given away yet. Everything I am doing right now is focused on getting that spot."
What do you have to do to take that spot?
"Just make plays, be a playmaker. You have to know the playbook, minimize mistakes, make plays and compete."
When you are trying to win a starting spot out here in this atmosphere, in shorts, no pads, is it tougher to do it that way?"If you ask a defensive player they would probably say that. For me I just have to know my routes, beating hands and beating a defender. The pads don't add much to it."