By Matthew Marczi
It’s no secret that Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller has gone through stretches this season where his play has suffered in all aspects, much of which could probably be attributed to the continual healing process from a torn ACL that he suffered less than a year ago.
The odd thing was that, prior to recent weeks, his best games came in his first two back, against the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. From then on until the Cleveland Browns game, he has certainly looked like a 30-year old tight end coming off a serious knee injury. But he may have had his best game of the year against the Baltimore Ravens, and it began with a renewed sense of purpose as a run blocker.
The Steelers faced an early third and long, but with the defensive look the Ravens presented, Ben Roethlisberger was too tempted not to try to take advantage of it and audibled to a run, despite needing 12 yards. While Miller and Marcus Gilbert helped open up a big lane for Le’Veon Bell, some of the edge blocking was lacking, and it resulted in only a gain of eight.
The Steelers opened the third quarter alternating between throwing the ball to Miller and running Bell behind Miller’s blocking. This is the first carry by Bell of the second half. He does a good job of holding off Courtney Upshaw in order to preserve the integrity of the running lane, and it leads to a six-yard gain on first down.
Two plays later, Miller helped open up a hole that eventually led to a 43-yard gain. Once again, Miller held off Upshaw, who is the outside linebacker that the Ravens use against the run, allowing Bell to find the alley to the left on third and two that he was able to break through for the longest run of his career.
Later, in the fourth quarter, Miller came close to scoring on his own, nearly backing his way into the end zone after a seven-yard reception that led to second and goal just a few inches shy of the goal line.
Dissatisfied that he wasn’t able to punch it in by himself, Miller wanted to do the next best thing by creating a walk-in touchdown for Bell on the very next play, and that’s exactly what he did.
His seal on linebacker Daryl Smith—along with the quality blocking to the right by wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders—made Bell’s job as easy as possible. That’s what you like to see from your veteran tight end.