Based on the comments made Friday by both Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert about rehabbing tight end Heath Miller, it\’s hard to come away thinking he\’ll be ready for the season opener. Should they, however, ultimately decide that he will be ready following the Week 4 bye, they might just carry him on the 53 man roster in lieu of placing him on the Reserve PUP list at the start of the season. That course of action would mean they would likely carry four tight ends initially.
All signs are pointing toward David Johnson being ready for the season opener, so that would not only make him the third healthy tight end behind Matt Spaeth and David Paulson, but the backup fullback behind Will Johnson as well. By keeping four tight ends on the roster, however, it would have to come at the expense of another position.
Judging by the early looks of the Steelers offensive line depth, it is not crazy to think the team might decide to keep only eight on the 53 man roster initially with two more being signed to the practice squad. Tomlin normally likes to only dress seven linemen on game days, so he might could get away with that number count until Miller is ready to play after the bye.
In my pre training camp 53 man roster projection, I had the Steelers keeping nine offensive linemen with rookie undrafted free agent guard Nik Embernate being the 9th. Embernate of course has now been lost for the season after tearing both his ACL and MCL on Thursday, so you have to wonder if there is anyone worth keeping now to be a 9th offensive linemen, and an inactive player on game day, that you couldn\’t possibly keep on the practice squad instead. Not keeping nine would allow Miller a spot on the 53 man roster, assuming of course the numbers at the other positions stay as I predicted them.
Following the bye week, Miller will be nearly 10 months removed from his surgery. By not being on Reserve PUP at the start the season, he could begin practicing with the team at any time in order to start ramping up his rehab, just as running back Rashard Mendenhall did last year.
We are still several weeks away from the Steelers needing to make their final decision on Miller, but if you are playing around with your 53 man roster projections like I am, I\’m not sure you can rule out four tight ends and a fullback being kept to start the season.