Dale Lolley of the Observer-Reporter got a chance to stop and chat with Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller during OTAs this week, the transcript of which he posted yesterday on his blog, NFL From the Sidelines.
Miller discussed the health of his knee and the opportunity to be able to participate in the standard offseason routine after he spent last summer rehabbing his injury. “It’s always good to do what you’re here for, which is to play football”, he said.
On the subject of his knee, he was asked if he feels that he’s at a point where he doesn’t find himself thinking about it while he’s practicing, to which he said “yeah, I feel good”.
“This process is good for me because I missed it last year”, he added. “It’s good to run around”. Miller was quite limited during this time last season, at which point he was only about six months removed from tearing up his knee”.
He was limited mostly to jogging and sprinting throughout the offseason, through training camp and the preseason, but he still managed to miss only the first two games of the season once the calendar rolled on to September.
Once he returned, he once again became that familiar comfort blanket that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has gotten used to for all but the first season of his career.
This season will mark the 10th year of the pair playing together. It should also be worth pointing out that they are the last two players on the offensive side of the ball left from the 2005 Super Bowl championship team.
Miller’s familiar presence will be even more important this season as the offense continues to evolve into a younger, less experienced group with the likes of Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, and Justin Brown at wide receiver taking on bigger roles. Veterans such as Lance Moore and LeGarrette Blount, too, must learn the offense.
Every player must especially be on the same page in order to run Roethlisberger’s preferred offense, the no huddle, which allows him to call the signals from the line of scrimmage, so acclimating the new faces is a process.
It’s no surprise that Miller was asked about the no huddle work that the Steelers began this week, then. He thought that the early work was “good. We’re getting a lot of work with it”, he said. “We’re going to continue with it”.
Though Roethlisberger largely spoke positively of the no huddle development after practice yesterday, it does sound as though there’s a fair share of growing pains.
Asked if the quarterback’s reactions suggested that he was less than pleased with the result, Miller responded, “I don’t know. We’ll see”. He reiterated that “this is the early steps” for the no huddle, adding that he expects they’ll be working on it more this summer than they have in the past.
With all the new moving parts at receiver, it might be easy to overlook the impact that a fully healthy Miller will have on the Steelers’ ability to run the no huddle. Even though he put up some statistics, there’s no question that the veteran tight end was limited last season.
In fact, he only caught one touchdown all last year, on a shovel pass no less, as the offense seemed to funnel some of his typical production to slot receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who ended the season with a career-high 10 touchdowns. Expect Miller to get a lot closer to 10 than one this season, whether that comes from a huddle or not.