Past Dominance Of Heath Miller Inside Red-zone Won\’t Be Ignored By Todd Haley

When Todd Haley was introduced as the new offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers back in early February, one of the first Steelers players that he mentioned by name during his introductory press conference was tight end Heath Miller. Haley said at that time that Miller is one of his favorite players that he has studied and prepared for during his coaching career. That is pretty high praise for Miller and well deserved as well.

Miller is a consummate professional and one of, if not the best, well rounded tight ends currently in the league. Heading into the 2012 season it appears that Miller will not be tethered to the offensive line as much as he has been the last few seasons. Just this past week the Steelers former first round pick sounded excited about how he and the other tight ends might have a bigger role this upcoming season when he said, “I definitely see opportunities for that to happen. That’s not to say there weren’t opportunities in the last offense. We are going to be involved a lot.”

While we have seen in the past how Miller can take over games between the 20\’s during his career, like the game he had against the New England Patriots last year, it is in the red-zone where he can likely see his contributions count the most in 2012. In his first 7 seasons in the league, Miller has compiled 54 catches inside the red-zone with 29 of them going for touchdowns. 7 more of those 54 catches produced first downs and 40 of the 54 receptions were deemed successful, meaning they gained at least 40% of the yards needed on first down, 60% of the yards needed on second down or 100% of the yards needed on both third and fourth down.

As the table of stats shows below, Miller has been targeted 79 times in total inside the red-zone over the course of his career and that computes to a 67% completion ratio. Only 3 passes thrown his way inside the oppositions\’ 20 yard-line have been intercepted in addition.

Of the red-zone passes thrown the last two seasons, 118 of them, Miller has been targeted just 16 times which equates to about 13.5% of all red-zone passes thrown in 2010 and 2011. In 2009, Millers best statistical season to date, he was targeted 16 times in the 64 red-zone passes thrown. That of course equates to 25%. He caught 13 of those 16 passes thrown his way in 2009 and 6 were good for touchdowns.

To summarize the stats below, Miller is money inside the red-zone.

The Steelers reportedly haven\’t worked much on red-zone drills this off-season as of yet, but it is expected that Miller could possible be targeted more than he has the last few seasons inside the 20-yard line of the opposition. Using play-action, something that we should see used more of than in years past, according to several Steelers players comments, should help Miller in this area of the field in addition.

The Steelers have struggled the last several season inside the red-zone and their points per game reflected that. While the offense has been able to control time of possession and move the ball down the field, the ultimate goal is to score points. With Bruce Arians now gone, it is up to Haley to make the offense better in this area of the field and it would make sense we could see him use one of his favorite players more to accomplish this.

Miller could be in for a monster 2012 season and there is no player more deserving of that on the roster.

ETA: I had carried over some stats wrong and the table below has now been updated.

Heath Miller Career Stats Inside Red-zone

YEARTOT RZ ATTTARGTARG %RECREC %SUCSPR %1STTDINTYDS
201158814%338%267%02127
201060813%450%250%02029
2009641625%1381%969%16082
200852815%563%5100%23031
2007771621%1275%975%26194
2006671218%758%571%14137
2005511122%982%778%16064
TOTALS4297918%5367%3974%7293366

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • SteelerDave

    Over the years we have all seen how amazingly effective Miller is in the RZ. One of my personal biggest issues with BA was his not using Miller more in the RZ. I would predict 10 to 12 TD’s this season for Heath.

  • Jprankster2005

    I think 3 players will have Monster seasons……. Miller, Batch and Sanders…… Miller will have alot more plays, Sanders if healthy will have a break out yr. and I see Batch having a really good yr as well…… I think Brown will have somewhat the yr. he did last yr. but a few more TD’s….. But I will say Redman and Batch will have alot of TD’s between the 2……..

  • RMSteeler

    Steelers could have won the last SB if Miller or Ward had been targeted on the last drive. Don’t know if it was BA or Ben tunnel vision to try and force 3 passes to Wallace while the other two were open.

  • Mwormack

    I think this stat over simplfies the issue, what the numbers don’t show is why Miller wasn’t targeted, was his release impeaded, did he have to chip or block due to a poor line. A lot factors into why he wasn’t thrown to as much in the past. The best way to score points in the red zone is to be able to both pass and run. All the skill players on offense have gotten it done for years, now if the line plays as good as they look on paper, we will score more.

  • Killerkowalski

    Good article. Very exited to see how the offense shapes up this upcoming season. I predict big things for Ben, the receivers, backs, and Heath Miller – especially since they will be operating alongside a much improved, young offensive line composed of high draft picks. Miller simply doesn’t drop on-target passes. Why he wasn’t targeted more inside the red zone under B.A’s offensive scheme is beyond me.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    I’ve been saying for weeks that Miller and Cotchery are going to be our best red zone threats. The young guys don’t have the savvy yet to find those tight open spots consistently. I expect a big year from Miller.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    I agree. I think Wallace will see a small drop in numbers, but the other guys will step up.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    Yep.

  • Fish

    Probably my favorite player since he came to us. He does it all at a high level and deserves more accolades than what he gets. The guy is simply the best at his position and would have all the glamour numbers that the “best” TE’s in the league have if he were used as they were. Classy, Tough, and outstanding Work Ethic. Great player!