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Steelers' tight ends could mean success vs. Cardinals

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By Mike Prisuta
Friday, Jan. 23, 2009

Steelers tight end Heath Miller has seen some video from the NFC Championship Game, but not the part where his Eagles counterpart reached double figures in receptions against the Arizona Cardinals.

"I don't think we got that far," Miller said. "I did see he had a lot of catches, though."

Philadelphia tight end Brent Celek had 10 catches, two of which went for touchdowns, in the Eagles' 32-25 loss to the Cards. The second-year pro and former fifth-round pick from Cincinnati had only caught 27 passes all season, and only one had gone for a touchdown.

Did Celek suddenly morph into Mike Ditka?

Or has the Cardinals' defense suddenly become a little too user-friendly for tight ends?

If it's the latter, Miller might be in line for a monster game in Super Bowl XLIII, not that he's thought that far ahead.

"A lot of times, that's (a result of) what the other team is doing," Miller said. "You never know how they're going to play us as a defense. And our game plan can dictate the ball going different places sometimes.

"I don't get my hopes up too much, but I'll be ready when called upon."

How often Miller gets the call against the Cardinals won't necessarily be predicated on how Philadelphia tight ends fared against Arizona, but recent performance is always taken into account during the preparation process.

"The game is and always will be matchup oriented," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "I want to pit our strengths vs. their potential weakness. I would like to minimize our weaknesses and play to our strengths.

"All of that's the chess match that's involved in formulating a game plan and getting your guys ready to play."

The Steelers, likewise, won't necessarily build their defensive game plan solely on stopping field-stretching receivers such as Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, despite his record-setting success this postseason (419 receiving yards, an all-time NFL playoffs high).

"I know that when you get to January football, and now we're talking about February football, teams that play in these games are balanced," Tomlin said. "We've talked quite a bit about what Fitzgerald is capable of, what (wide receiver) Anquan Boldin is capable of, what (quarterback) Kurt Warner is capable of.

"We're also aware of what (running back) Edgerrin James is capable of. You have to respect all their weapons. There's a reason they're in this game. We understand that their weapon of choice may be different than it's been."

Miller caught a career-high 48 passes in the regular season, despite missing two games because of an ankle injury, but his touchdown receptions fell to a career-low three.

A first-round pick from Virginia in 2005, Miller caught 18 TD passes over his first three seasons.

He found the end zone again in the Steelers' 35-24 playoff victory over San Diego on Jan. 11 and caught three passes and averaged 20.7 yards per catch in the Steelers' AFC Championship Game victory over Baltimore.

"I think we have guys in this locker room who are all capable of making plays when called upon," Miller said. "We just try to take advantage of what the defense is giving us."

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