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Steelers Film Session: Ben shuns Miller in 2nd half

| Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, 10:52 p.m.
Steelers running back Issac Redman runs against the Cowboys in the third quarter at Cowboys Stadium Dec. 16, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers tight end Heath Miller plays against the Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium Dec. 16, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Ben Roethlisberger placed blame on the play-calling for not getting tight end Heath Miller involved more in the second half of Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss to Dallas, especially when Miller enjoyed a first half in which he was targeted six times and caught six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.

However, Roethlisberger may have to put a lot of that blame on himself and his offensive line.

Five of Roethlisberger's 17 second-half dropbacks came when Miller was on the field, and they easily could have resulted in completions to the tight end if Roethlisberger decided to go there or if the offensive line gave him enough time to throw.

Instead, Roethlisberger looked for another target, was sacked or was pressured into an incompletion.

Here are the plays:

• Miller beat linebacker Anthony Spencer to the flat, but Roethlisberger zoned in on Antonio Brown over the middle before getting sacked.

• Miller beat outside linebacker Alex Albright up the seam on man coverage, but pressure forced Roethlisberger to throw the ball away.

• Against man coverage by Spencer, Miller ran an arrow route across the middle from right to left and was open, but Roethlisberger threw to Mike Wallace for a completion instead.

• Miller got free of man coverage by cornerback Sterling Moore across the middle, but the ball was thrown incomplete to the outside to Brown instead.

• Again against Moore, Miller ran free across the middle but Roethlisberger threw to Brown instead for the completion.

The Cowboys did a good job of switching up coverages on Miller, which could have confused Roethlisberger.

In the first half, Miller stayed in to block six times; faced man coverage against a linebacker three times (one catch, 30 yards, TD); went against man coverage against a safety five times (two catches, 19 yards); faced bracket coverage against a linebacker and safety five times (one catch, 17 yards); went up against zone coverage five times (no receptions); and didn't play on one snap.

Things changed in the second half, mostly with the Cowboys putting a cornerback on Miller five times. In 19 dropbacks, Miller stayed into block five times; faced man coverage against a linebacker four times; was up against man coverage with a safety once (one catch, 6 yards); had bracket coverage once; faced a zone once; and didn't play two snaps.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

• Nobody pump-fakes better than Roethlisberger, and he showed that against the Cowboys. He pump-faked 10 times and completed six passes for 130 yards, including the 30-yard touchdown pass to Miller and a 60-yard pass to Wallace that set up a Jonathan Dwyer touchdown run.

• Tony Romo threw toward Steelers cornerback Josh Victorian four times among his first eight passes, but the rookie really didn't perform all that poorly. Victorian was targeted seven times and allowed six catches for 65 yards, but the longest reception he allowed was 19 yards. In Dick LeBeau's defense, that's a solid performance.

• The Steelers allowed a season-high 415 yards to the Cowboys — 56 more than their previous high, against Tennessee. One of the main reasons was poor tackling. The Steelers missed eight tackles, which resulted in an extra 103 yards for the Cowboys. The main culprit was Victorian: He missed three tackles on receptions, which went for an extra 35 yards. Also missing tackles were Brett Keisel (two for 38 yards), Keenan Lewis (one for 14), James Harrison (one for 9) and Robert Golden (one for 7).

• Antonio Brown's decision to drop 60 yards deep during a late fourth-quarter punt by Brian Moorman came under question, especially after he let the ball hit in front of him and roll an extra 17 yards. It put the Steelers into a tough spot for a late game-winning field goal drive. However, there was a good reason for it. Moorman's previous punt was driven — you guessed it — 60 yards down field. On that punt, Brown set up approximately 50 yards from the line of scrimmage — typical distance for a punt returner to drop — and was forced backward.

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