Kovacevic: Look! Up in the sky! It's ... Heath?
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
It's hard to imagine how the Steelers' offense could be any more of a mess.
They've scored two touchdowns through two losses, both on the only two drives that weren't orchestrated by the offensive coordinator. They rank 31st of the NFL's 32 teams in rushing, 31st in passing, 31st overall. They have half as many punts (14) as first downs (28). They have a running back with 12 yards on 10 carries, and, you betcha, Isaac Redman will top the depth chart this week, too.
Basically, this offense is a Tim Tebow protest away from being the Jaguars.
Appearances are even worse.
Ben Roethlisberger described himself as “frustrated” after the 20-10 loss Monday in Cincinnati, and Mike Tomlin later referred to Ben as “angry,” neither adjective all that healthy. Antonio Brown has been pouting for weeks — who knows why? — and now is barking about not getting the ball enough. Emmanuel Sanders has disintegrated from being the Patriots' summertime fling to the No. 1 candidate to get big money to a guy who couldn't find separation in divorce court.
And I'm not even touching Todd Haley and his playbook that looks as ambitious as … well, something scribbled onto a bar napkin in the wee hours of the night.
Want to know what this team needs?
How about an exceptionally well-time helping of Heath Miller?
I raised the possibility Wednesday with Roethlisberger, that his beloved tight end could return this weekend against the Bears, and he lit up brighter than those Paul Brown Stadium lights that allegedly were blinding his receivers.
“Well, he's the best tight end in the game. It would mean a lot,” Roethlisberger said. “He's a leader and a guy we depend on in both the run and pass game, so yeah, we hope he's able to come back.”
No one needs a detailed recitation of what Miller has meant to this franchise in his eight-plus seasons. If he isn't the best tight end in the game, he certainly remains among the elite after a 2012 in which he led the Steelers with 71 catches, led AFC tight ends with a career-high 816 yards and earned team MVP honors in a vote of his peers.
But here's one wonderful way to magnify, specifically, what he has meant to this quarterback, courtesy of an Elias Sports Bureau accounting of every pass Roethlisberger has thrown toward Miller:
Completion rate: 71.4
Yards per catch: 8.1
Passer rating: 107.5
Stunning stuff, huh?
No one can be certain if Miller will suit up against the Bears — Tomlin characterizes him as having “a chance” — but it's sounding promising: He was a full participant in practice Wednesday, and that won't change barring a setback with his surgically repaired right knee.
Miller's prognosis after practice: “We'll see how it feels in the morning, try to keep pushing it through the week and see how it holds up. It feels pretty good right now. Today was a good day. I'm encouraged by how it went.”
He should be. Per some accounts, Miller has looked tremendous. Agile, athletic and ready to go.
So pay no heed when Tomlin tried to downplay his return with that clever, “We're not expecting Heath to step out of a phone booth with a cape on.” Even an ordinary Miller would make a world of difference.
Foremost, he'd take the place of a robustly ineffective David Paulson, the third-stringer thrust into the role after Matt Spaeth also was felled by injury. Paulson hasn't been any receiving threat, his fumble Monday might have been the game's pivotal point, and he can't block so much as a Twitter follower.
He'd also restore Roethlisberger's favorite target, obviously, as well as taking the heat off the easily chipped wide receivers, blocking for the running game, supporting shaky left tackle Mike Adams and so much more that — let's face it — are more noticeable when he's not playing than when he is.
Above all, you have to love the calming impact he'd have on this increasingly chaotic 0-2 outfit.
If No. 83 somehow engineers a reversal on that level, hey, he'll be wearing a cape, charginga power ring, turning green, talking telepathically to sea creatures and making sense of the Browns' front office.
OK, scratch that last one.
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