Cotchery embraces mentorship of Wheaton

PITTSBURGH -- Jerricho Cotchery leads the Pittsburgh Steelers in touchdown catches (five) and yards per catch (14.6) among the players with at least 10 receptions.

The 10th-year veteran is also making a major contribution -- one that can't be quantified -- by mentoring rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton.

“I want to be there to help him develop as fast as possible,” Cotchery said. “This is the last year of my deal so I want to maximize the time that I have with him because I feel like he can be a great player in this league. He can do a lot of things.”

When I asked if Wheaton has been receptive to learning from veteran players, Cotchery looked at me like I had suggested that playing without a helmet on Sunday would be a wise thing for him to do.

"He's a complete sponge, man," Cotchery said. "He's always asking me something. He sits by me in all of the meetings. Every time I come off the field if I'm standing by him he's asking, 'Hey, what were you thinking on this and that.' This is even in practice, so he's taking in everything and you can see the thought process and everything that he does. He knows exactly what he's doing. As a young guy that's pretty good as a receiver. I think he's going to be a really good player."

Wheaton has not shown much this season in large part because a broken right pinkie sidelined the Steelers' third-round pick for the past four games.

For those wondering how a relatively minor injury could take so long to heal, it is a little more complicated than that.

Wheaton's pinkie got so mangled in the Steelers' Sept. 29 loss to the Vikings in London that doctors had to rotate the digit to fix it and also insert screws to keep it in place.

Wheaton has been a full participant in practice this week, and he is expected to suit up Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (1 p.m., CBS).

"I'm so excited," said Wheaton, who has caught three passes for 26 yards this season. "I love to play the game. Hopefully I can contribute to the team."

Wheaton is one of the more quiet players in the Steelers' locker room but he is apparently not shy about asking questions. He peppered James Rodgers with them at Oregon State and does the same thing with older wideouts here such as Cotchery, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

Steelers veterans have raved about Wheaton's skills and approach, so it is easy to see why Cotchery has been so willing to teach the 5-11, 182-yarder everything he knows.

"He's been huge,” Wheaton said of Cotchery, "and obviously he's been doing it for a long time so I think he's a good person to learn from as well as E and AB. I think they have a lot of knowledge that I don't have and I try to get it from them."