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Miller can't pinpoint return to Steelers' lineup

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers tight end Heath Miller watches practice at St. Vincent College.

Stellar stats

Heath Miller's 2012 rank among NFL tight ends:

Statistic No. Rank

Receptions 71 5th

Yards 816 5th

Avg. 11.5 14th

TDs 8 T-4

First-down catches 44 5th

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Alan Robinson
Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 10:54 p.m.
 

Heath Miller acknowledges there have been occasional setbacks in his long recovery from a serious, multi-layered knee injury.

“I think in any rehab process, there are ups and downs,” said Miller, the Pro Bowl tight end who was the Steelers' leading receiver last season. “But I definitely think we've had more positives than negatives, and I feel good.”

With the regular season less than a month away, Miller continues to take his rehabilitation day by day, never looking too far ahead. And a man who still walks with a perceptible limp apparently still needs a lot more days before he can play again.

Neither the Steelers nor Miller have suggested any timetable, but running back Rashard Mendenhall didn't return from a torn ACL until a month into last season. Miller tore not only his anterior cruciate ligament but his medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments Dec. 23 against the Bengals.

He is certain he will play this season — “I'm hoping sooner rather than later,” he said — but he won't guess when it might be.

“I wish I knew the answer, but I don't,” he said.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert doesn't consider a player to be fully recovered from such an injury for a year. For Miller, that won't occur until the next-to-last game of the season.

“There's a time frame for ACLs, but obviously, I had multi-ligaments (injured) so that adds another wrinkle into it,” Miller said. “But each individual is different, and it's hard to project how your body is going to heal, how your body is going to react moving forward.”

Miller is on the physically unable to perform list but is all but certain to be removed before the start of the season. If he isn't, he can't return until after six games. The Steelers badly want him back before then.

Miller made 71 catches for 816 yards and eight touchdowns last season, when he was chosen for the Pro Bowl for a second time.

“I try to take each day and make it a positive and keep stacking positive days,” Miller said. “And I know it will be a good outcome whenever that time comes, that I'm ready to go.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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