Let\’s Not Rule Heath Miller Out For The Opener Just Yet

There are quite a few people speculating that the Pittsburgh Steelers might draft a tight end as early as the first round next month in draft, but I would suggest tempering those expectations.

Most of the reasoning behind that speculation stems from the belief that Heath Miller, who tore his ACL, MCL and PCL in the Week 16 game last season against the Cincinnati Bengals, might start the season on the reserve PUP list. While that certainly is a possibility, I would bet against it happening right now.

Miller, as of today, is three months and two days removed from his surgery. By the time the first Sunday of the 2013 season rolls around, he will be eight months and 13 days removed from his surgery. With all the advances that have been made in knee ligament reconstruction, that is quite a long time these days.

Nose tackle Casey Hampton and tackle Max Starks both suffered ACL tears in the 2012 AFC Wild-Card Game loss to Denver Broncos. They both made it back for the start of the 2012 season and that was a span of seven months, 14 days from the day that they both suffered their injuries.

Running back Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL on January 1, 2012 and nine months, seven days later he was back playing again. Why so long? The running back position requires being able to change direction quickly and the Steelers likely didnt feel like rushing him back.

Yes, the fact that Miller hit the ligament trifecta could cause a delay, but Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL and freakishly made it back in eight months and 17 days.

The Steelers signed back Matt Spaeth almost two weeks ago, and it doesn\’t appear that they are ready to give up on David Paulson either. Adding another tight end early in the draft just doesn\’t make sense right now.

With all the above said, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert had the duty of creating a smokescreen when he talked to the media at the NFL combine last month.

“In my mind, an ACL injury late in the year, I still don’t believe a player is 100 percent until a (calendar) year is up,” Colbert said. “They may play before that, but whether they’re 100 percent or not, I don’t know. In my mind if you get something from a player before one year, that’s a bonus. (Heath) will be back at some point, so if we look at a tight end (in the draft) … it will depend on which tight end is available more than Heath Miller’s status, because right now we believe Heath will be back at some point.”

Keep in mind that those comments were made way before the team decided to sign Spaeth to a three-year deal and 30 more days have passed in Miller\’s rehab as well.

Now I am not going to guarantee that the Steelers won\’t draft a tight end at all next month, but with the likelihood that Miller might miss very little time, if any, to start the season, unless they are giving up on Paulson, I wouldn\’t be surprised if they didn\’t.

  • RW

    I like Jordan Reed as a pass catching TE, or Travis Kelce as an all-around TE. Both should be available in Rds. 3 or 4, but that doesn’t mean we’ll take either. In fact, I can see us sticking it out with our current TE group until Heath gets back. If that’s true, we’ll need a new wideout that can battle for balls vertically.

  • steeltown

    Spaeth was signed to provide a solid blocking TE and depth at the position, he is no way guaranteed to be on roster past 2013. At the moment, the Steelers have enough guys to go into this season (Paulson, Spaeth, W.Johnson, D.Johnson) but that doesnt mean they wont snag a TE if thats how the draft presents itself and that TE provides an upgrade over the aforementioned players.

    With the way Haley’s Offense runs, I’d think they would be strongly considering TE

    But, as Bryan mentioned, after signing Spaeth it doesnt make much sense to add another TE. It really wouldnt surprise me if they wait till next offseason to draft TE

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Miller tore 3 vs Petersons 2 and you’re thinking they should both have the same recovery time?

    TE isn’t at the top of my list but I would prefer a TE to a WR given the injury, age and the fact that 2 good TE’s fits both the league trends and Haley’s offense.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    This. At least two receivers (one or two wide receivers or one each, te and wr). Heath Miller is entering last year of contract next season and he’s 31. Eifert, a blue chip tight end is a better prospect than heath miller was and not only, he’s faster… and younger.

    We have enough slot wide receivers on this roster, we need a true possession wide receiver. No plaxico isn’t one (he’s merely a depth/redzone wr) and cotchery is a career back-up at this point.

    Other prospect I like beside Eifert is Vance Mcdonald from Rice. Can be a darkhorse for best tight end in draft.

  • Jollyrob68

    Just because Spaeth was signed doesn’t mean they no longer like Poulsen or wouldn’t draft Eifert. D Johnson isn’t guarantees to make the team. Eifert has some of the best hands in the draft,Redzone Threat and might be the BPA at 17.
    I’d take him or trade back for more 2nd or 3rd round picks.

  • redneckmuslim

    I would not be surprised at all if Heath is back early in the season. I’ve seen a lot of evidence over the years that he is a tough SOB.

    But I hope we stick to the “best player available” mentality that we preach. If Eifert is the best player at 17, so be it. We should forget about who is already on the roster, at least during the first round. If fate deals you the same type of player in the first round for several years in a row, you take them.

    That’s because the possibility of getting a hall of famer will outweigh the fact that other “needs” are being neglected. This is especially true in the era of free agency and a tight cap. Everybody is in constant need at one or more positions. The only way to rise above the level playing field is to grab the stars when they come along.

    If you are lucky enough to draft two stars at the same position, with the exception of quarterback, you simply put them both on the field. Heath and Eifert on the field at the same time sounds pretty good to me.

  • dgh57

    Miller I feel misses at least the 1st month of the season. I hope I’m wrong but to ask him to come back from a tear of 3 knee ligaments is asking a lot!

    So does a TE get drafted? Sure, all I know is that Matt Spaeth isn’t the answer!

  • Brendon Glad

    3 ligaments is 33% more damage than 2…by my math. Not only do I think he will not be ready for the opener…I think it borders on reckless if they even LET him play in the opener.

  • Brendon Glad

    When has the current strength/training/medical staff EVER gotten someone back ahead of pace on the injury timeline? Hampton maybe. That’s about it. Starks was on his own for most of his rehab.

  • steeltown

    Hell yes.. Heath and Eifert would be amazing

  • Too bad, Im ruling him out for the first 4 games at least.

  • Brendon Glad

    I’ve actually got a formula for estimating when Steelers players with significant injuries will return. Take the back end of the biggest number and add 2-4 weeks. That usually works pretty well. So if they said 8-10 months, I’d expect him back in 10.5-11 months. You can go through a large number of Steelers from the last few years, plug that in, and see that it’s pretty accurate. Whether that’s because the staff is subpar, or the information that is released to the public is deliberately inaccurate and obtuse, is up for debate.

  • Great conversation with yourself.

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    Eifert #1!

  • Brendon Glad

    Yeah it was…til the wise-arse joined it.

  • LucasY59

    Adrian Peterson is a FREAK of nature, The injury only helped prove the fact even more.

    I agree with Colbert the player may be able to play sooner than a year out but they wont be 100%, all 3 of the injured players did not look 100% when they returned (especially Mendenhall) Starks was the best of the 3, but as an O-Line man I think he could perform better at less than 100% than a more mobile/skill position player like Miller.

    I think Eifert or some of the other prospects (Ertz if he’s still available in the 2nd) are very good options to take in this years draft, they can help Miller be a better threat because they take some pressure off him as the only TE the D has to be accountable for (Paulsen was good for a 7th rd rookie, but is not (and most likely will never be) at the level of Miller) Eifert or Ertz have the potential to be just as good (if they can learn from and acquire Millers work ethic and attitude)

    Spaeth is an insurance policy for Miller, the Steelers know what they can expect from him and are comfortable with him possibly filling in while Miller is out. They also know he is nothing better than a #2 TE so adding a guy that could become that #1 guy to take over for Miller in a few years is a good pick this year

  • Kyle Owens

    When Giants tight end Travis Beckum tore his ACL in the early in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLVI (Feb 2012) he started the season on the PUP and didn’t get activated until around nine months later, Travis is 27. Heath is 31 and his injury is a lot worse.