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
|YEAR||TOT RZ ATT||TARG||TARG %||REC||REC %||SUC||SPR %||1ST||TD||INT||YDS|