Steelers tight end Miller feeling his way back
Admittedly, it has taken Heath Miller more time than expected to hit his stride since returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss the first two games of the season.
While there wasn't a limp, he didn't run routes confidently. Miller, who often is limited in practice, has had to pace himself.
On Sunday, the veteran tight end appeared self-assured in registering a game-high eight receptions in the Steelers' gutsy 37-27 come-from-behind win over the favored Detroit Lions at Heinz Field.
Still, Miller isn't yet where he wants to be. And he was pained some by an uncharacteristic drop in the end zone that forced the Steelers to settle for a field goal — another red-zone blunder that characterizes the offense.
The Steelers were able to hang with Detroit after getting smoked in the second quarter. But they were aided in the second half when Miller exploited a Lions' defense that struggled to contain wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had touchdown receptions of 34 and 47 yards.
“I can't control the opportunities I get, but I have to make the most of ones I get,” Miller said. “I hadn't done that the past couple of weeks.”
In the previous two games against New England and Buffalo, Miller had only 10 targets and five receptions. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger targeted him 10 times against the Lions, including 9- and 11-yard receptions during the game-winning 16-play, 97-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
Miller is encouraged that the Steelers are headed in the right direction as they prepare to play at Cleveland on Sunday in a key AFC North game.
“We had some opportunities there (in the red zone),” Miller said. “Obviously, the play to me that we didn't make and we had the first-and-goal — that was two field goals. But we were able to make enough plays at the end. Hats off to everybody for sticking together at the end, and it worked out for us.”
The outcome could have easily been different if Miller hadn't stepped up on the field and in the locker room. The soft-spoken Miller challenged his teammates to pull it together after the Lions surged ahead with a 27-point second quarter.
“I talked to the guys in the locker room about staying together and staying with it after the break,” he said. “We stuck to the plan and kept believing in each other.”
Now there's a belief in the locker room that the Steelers' once-dim playoff hopes have been revived. At 4-6, they share second place with the Browns and reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore behind division leader Cincinnati (7-4).
Miller knows the Steelers will have to get better in the red zone and achieve better balance to survive road matchups at Cleveland and Baltimore. Unlike the build-up to Detroit, when Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh garnered much of the attention, the focus shifts back to the Steelers' playoff chances.
“It's OK with us that no one was paying attention because there are a lot of things we need to get better at,” Miller said. “Certainly, you see signs of our potential with the guys we have on the field. I think we have to continue to shoot for the ceilings. There's no doubt we're not there yet.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.
- No tag for Worilds; Steelers cut Moore
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- Steelers release WR Lance Moore
- Big names become available this week via free agency; will Steelers be tempted?
- Steelers’ decision for NFL Draft: Pass rusher or cornerback?
- Steelers restructure Gilbert, Mitchell contracts; Pouncey close
- Depth a concern for Steelers’ Colbert
- Gorman: Steelers botch Big Ben’s negotiation