By Matthew Marczi
The return of tight end Heath Miller to the lineup has been a big boost for the Pittsburgh Steelers, not only in terms of his ability to contribute to the receiving game, but, perhaps especially, in terms of what he brings as a blocker, in comparison to what they were previously working with.
With Miller gone, and David Johnson still working through a cleanup procedure on the eve of training camp on his surgically repaired knee, the Steelers were primarily leaning on the slender David Paulson for their blocking needs at tight end. Suffice it to say that he did not really get the job done. No offense to the young Mr. Paulson, but I don’t suspect you have ever seen him throw a block like this.
On this play, Miller does not simply box out the cornerback on a quick out to Markus Wheaton to secure a first down. On this play, he buries the cornerback into the ground and embarrasses him enough to force him to retaliate for the sake of his own dignity, to which Miller responds with a classic shake of the head.
Miller also played a key role on both of Le’Veon Bell’s touchdown runs, the first one for sealing the edge of the defense once he realizes that Bell bounced the run outside.
One of my favorite traits about Miller, however, is his work ethic, in that he treats every snap the same regardless of its significance. Take, for example, this late second-quarter carry in which the Steelers were simply running out the clock. He gets a perfect seal on Jared Allen on the play to open up a hole for one of Bell’s biggest plays of the night.
Then there was Bell’s second touchdown in which he comes off a double team on Allen when he sees Chad Greenway coming through the gap, who likely would have made the tackle had Miller not picked him up.
Instead, it’s a two-touchdown night for the rookie’s debut. Rather than taking the chance of David DeCastro not pulling fast enough to block Greenway, Miller takes him, leaving DeCastro to help Johnson with Allen as Bell barrels his way over the safety for the score.
Yes, it is a good thing for the Steelers to have Heath Miller back, and he is likely still playing his way back into football shape. The week off should give his knee time to rebound from the exertion as well, and perhaps he will be able to work his way into the passing game more after the bye.