Miller returns to Steelers' lineup against Panthers
Steelers tight end Heath Miller returned to action Thursday night after missing the previous two games because of a concussion.
The Steelers had taken a cautious approach with the 2010 Pro Bowler after he experienced exercise-induced headaches following the first concussion of his career.
Miller started last night against the visiting Carolina Panthers, and his 20-yard catch on the Steelers first possession of the game set up a 26-yard Shaun Suisham field goal.
Strong safety Troy Polamalu missed his second consecutive because of a lower-leg injury.
The Steelers are hoping to rest Polamalu until the playoffs though that could change if they need to beat the Browns on Jan. 2 to win the AFC North.
Polamalu is tied for second in the NFL with six interception, and he may be the odds-on to win the Steelers' MVP Award.
The award is voted on by the players and it will be given next week.
“You've got to go with Troy, the way he's been playing, the impact he's been making in every game,” Steelers linebacker and defensive captain James Farrior said. “I think he's raised his level of play a little more this year. He's making plays he made in the past but they're more impactful to the game.”
• Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will deal with questions about a change at left tackle after starter Jonathan Scott got yanked for a second consecutive game.
Scott didn't make it through the Steelers' first possession of the game before Trai Essex replaced him just as he had last Sunday against the Jets.
The Steelers made the change after Scott missed a block and Panthers defensive tackle Derek Landri buried Rashard Mendenhall for a 5-yard loss.
Scott returned to left tackle for the Steelers' second possession.
• Wide receiver Mike Wallace raced into the end zone — and into the Steelers' history books — early in the second quarter.
Wallace's 43-yard catch-and-run tied the second-year man and Ben Roethlisberger for the most touchdown hookups of at least 40 yards by a quarterback and wide receiver.
Roethlisberger and Wallace have combined for seven touchdowns of 40 or more yards, tying them with Bubby Brister and Louis Lipps for the most in franchise history.
• In addition to Polamalu, wide receivers Arnaz Battle (chest) and defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) did not play last night because of injuries.
Joining them on the Steelers' inactives list were offensive tackles Tony Hills and Chris Scott, defensive tackle Steve McLendon, running back Jonathan Dwyer and Charlie Batch (third quarterback).
Smith, who partially tore his left triceps in last October, is hoping to return for the playoffs through there are no guarantees.
“I'm happy with where I'm at right now considering the injury,” Smith said earlier this week, “so really it's just a matter of seeing what happens.”
• Farrior's endorsement of Polamalu flattered the five-time Pro Bowler.
But, Polamalu said, “I wouldn't ever consider myself to be that. Maybe our defensive MVP would be Rashard Mendenhall.”
Mendenhall entered last night's game with 1,173 rushing yards, which ranked seventh in the NFL and represented a career high for the Steelers' first-round pick in 2008.
Steelers vs. Panthers December 23, 2010src="http://photos.mycapture.com/PITT/1140875/33332667T.jpg" alt="Steelers vs. Panthers December 23, 2010" title="Steelers vs. Panthers December 23, 2010">
The Steelers defeat Carolina, 27-3, Thursday December 23, 2010 at Heinz Field.
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