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Miller's huge game against Ravens helps bolster his place in Steelers' record book

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 7:14 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers tight end Heath Miller turns upfield for the tying touchdown in front of the Ravens' Corey Graham on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Baltimore Ravens made up their minds early that the Steelers' roadrunners — Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown — weren't going to beat them over the top in a key AFC North battle at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

As a consequence, they often slept on tight end Heath Miller. The sure-handed Miller gashed the middle of the Ravens' defense to provide quarterback Charlie Batch with a secure, confident target.

Miller, who finished with five catches for 97 yards, made the big catches in the second half to help propel the Steelers to a 23-20 victory that kept their slim division title hopes alive. Also, with three home games remaining over the final four weeks — including Sunday's game against San Diego — the Steelers vastly improved their playoff chances.

“It's an important win for us, especially when you win on the road,” said Miller, who has a team-high 56 receptions for 613 yards.

While the Steelers were handing Baltimore its first home loss in two years, Miller's record-setting day was largely overshadowed.

Miller's 7-yard touchdown catch with 7:37 remaining that tied the game at 20-20 enabled him to establish a franchise record for most touchdowns (38) by a tight end. He had shared that record with Elbie Nickel.

“Heath did a good job of body position, and really stretching out to make that play,” Batch said.

Miller, only one touchdown shy of tying Louis Lipps (39) for the fifth most in franchise history, equaled his single-season career high of seven touchdown receptions in 2007.

“(The record) didn't dawn on me until someone told me when I came into the locker room,” Miller said. “Obviously, winning the game was much more important.”

Miller influenced the outcome by taking advantage of the Ravens' commitment to bottle up Wallace and Brown.

“(Miller) continues to amaze us,” Brown said. “He's doing great things over the middle and it's great to have a tight end like Heath Miller.”

Miller had 43-yarder in the third quarter to position Jonathan Dwyer for a 16-yard touchdown run to tie the game, 13-13. In the fourth quarter, Miller caught a 23-yard pass to the Baltimore 20, but the drive stalled when Batch's pass to Miller in the back of the end zone was intercepted by safety Ed Reed.

“On the (43-yard reception), we had Mike and Antonio on one side and obviously they command a lot of respect with their speed. They both went deep and the middle was kind of vacated. Charlie gave me balls to run with, and we were able to make them pay.

“We didn't know how they would play it. If someone had jumped the crossing routes, we had a favorable matchup with Mike over the top. Charlie did a good job reading out the defense and hitting the open guy. We ran our standard formations, but we had a little variation — something we hadn't shown them in the past.”

It's something the Chargers aren't likely to ignore Sunday.

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or 412-320-7923.

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