ShareThis Page

Kovacevic: Look! Up in the sky! It's ... Heath?

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 11:22 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers tight end Heath Miller practices Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, on the South Side. Miller could return for Sunday night's game against the Bears.

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

Touchdowns: 35

Interceptions: 13

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.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.