ShareThis Page

Steelers veteran tight end Miller thriving after missing last offseason

| Monday, June 9, 2014, 9:50 p.m.
Steelers tight end Heath Miller makes a catch during OTA practice Thursday, May 29, 2014, on the South Side.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers tight end Heath Miller makes a catch during OTA practice Thursday, May 29, 2014, on the South Side.

Ben Roethlisberger is using the Steelers' pre-camp practices to get in rhythm with the receivers who weren't around a year ago.

Martavis Bryant. Lance Moore. Darrius Heyward-Bey. Rob Blanchflower.

Don't forget one more name: Heath Miller.

Miller, long the most-trusted target for Roethlisberger, seems to be enjoying the offseason workouts that move into their third week Tuesday — an uncommon occurrence for a player going into his 10th NFL season.

But rather than feeling drudgery while going through practices that take place three months before the season starts, Miller believes the sessions are good for him and the offense.

For good reason, too — he was healing from a major knee injury a year ago, when he missed all of the major preseason work and didn't return to the lineup until Week 3.

Even after he came back, it took Miller weeks and weeks to again be the receiver he was while making 71 catches in 2012, before he tore his ACL and MCL and injured his PCL against the Bengals on Dec. 23. He needed nearly nine months — and that was a rapid recovery — for his right knee to fully strengthen, and for him to get back into game and practice shape.

It was a long road, but Miller — the top receiving tight end in Steelers' history — believes he's fully back, 18 months since he was injured.

“Last year was the first year I haven't been able to prepare for a season with these (May-June) practices, and they're certainly beneficial — to me, anyway — to be out here to work on your technique,” Miller said.

“It's hard to simulate football activity without doing football.”

It also was more difficult for Roethlisberger to begin last season without Miller and projected starting running back Le'Veon Bell, who missed the first three games of the Steelers' 0-4 start.

iller and Bell should be full-go in an offense that looks deeper than it did at the start of last season, even without receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders.

“It's hard for me to think of another year when we've lost (more) guys, but we've got some new faces — and, from what I've seen, they're more than capable of getting the job done,” Miller said. “It's just a matter of who is going to be out there doing it.”

The one constant in the Steelers' passing game since Miller arrived as a first-round pick in 2005 is how reliable he is as a receiver.

Even while playing in an offense that never emphasized throwing to the tight end, Miller has 466 catches — the fourth-most among all NFL tight ends over the past nine seasons. He has made those catches while being targeted only 652 times — or nearly 500 times fewer than 13-time Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez during that span.

Miller, who turns 32 in October, doesn't think his knee operation will have any impact on this season or the rest of his career.

While he didn't look like himself until the second half of last season, he still finished with 58 catches, the third-most of his career.

“Certainly, if you play the game long enough, there aren't many guys who come through it without major injuries,” Miller said. “It's just something that I've had to work to overcome, and I'm just looking forward now.”

So is Roethlisberger.

“I've always said that Heath is the best all-around tight end in the league,” he said.

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

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.