Chicago Bears hoping to have some reinforcements vs. Steelers
The 0-2 Chicago Bears could get some badly needed reinforcements with the return of three injured starters for Sunday's game against the 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers at Soldier Field.
Guard Kyle Long, wide receiver Markus Wheaton and cornerback Prince Amukamara all could see their first action of the season.
"We're hopeful that we'll get all three of those guys back for Pittsburgh," coach John Fox said.
Long (ankle) and Amukamara (ankle) were limited again at Wednesday's practice. Wheaton was a full participant and appears to be the best bet to make an impact Sunday.
Any help is especially critical for an offense that didn't get on the scoreboard last week until garbage time of a 29-7 loss to the Bucs at Tampa.
Wheaton would provide a deep threat, but the five-year veteran is a bit of an unknown in the Bears' offense. He underwent an appendectomy early in training camp and then suffered a broken pinkie finger on his first day back at practice, missing all of the preseason. He has yet to play in any kind of game with quarterback Mike Glennon.
"We're still in wait-and-see (mode)," Fox said of Wheaton. "He was out there last week in a limited basis. He does have good quickness, good speed. He's been a productive receiver in this league."
Wheaton played in just three games and had only 4 catches last season with the Steelers because of a shoulder injury. But in 2015 he averaged 17.0 yards per catch and scored 5 touchdowns on 44 receptions for 749 yards.
"We're excited to watch him," Fox said. "He looked more involved last week. I think he's got a pretty good grasp of what we're doing."
This game should hold more significance for Wheaton, since it's against the team that drafted him in the third round (79th overall) in 2013. Right?
"I would like to say 'no,' " Wheaton said. "But I was there for a long time, and I have a lot of good friends there, so it would definitely be fun to face those guys."
Wheaton especially values the time he spent with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the five-time Pro Bowler who still looks like one of the NFL's best in his 14th season.
"Ben took my game to a whole other level," Wheaton said. "He taught me so much being there for four years. I definitely appreciate everything he's done for me. I think he's taught me really how to enhance what I do have and not worry much about what I don't. Really just focusing on what I do have and fine-tuning it."
Roethlisberger said he misses Wheaton, but with perennial Pro Bowler Antonio Brown and the return of Martavis Bryant from a one-year drug suspension, he doesn't lack for weapons.
"Awesome teammate," Roethlisberger said of Wheaton. "His locker was next to mine. Loved Markus, was sad to see him go. Kind of enjoyed taking him under my wing and having fun with him. Super nice guy, very unselfish, just really enjoyed having him around here.
"In terms of a football player, you're getting a guy who's very smart -- he knew our offense very well -- could stretch the field, made some very big plays for us when we needed him."
Wheaton brings that deep threat to a Bears offense that is 25th in average gain per pass play and 26th in rushing yards, partly because it hasn't been a threat to throw the ball down the field. The Bears' longest pass play of the season is 22 yards.
"I want to make plays down the field," Wheaton said. "So hopefully when I get in, that's what I'm doing."
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