View Full Version : Steelers: A twist in Heath Miller's tale

11-26-2011, 08:25 AM
Steelers: A twist in Heath Miller's tale
Brown's emergence at WR opens lanes for veteran tight end
Saturday, November 26, 2011
By Sam Werner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With 324, Heath Miller is five catches away from the Steelers career record for tight ends.

When Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians implored his unit Wednesday to focus on team goals rather than individual accolades, veteran tight end Heath Miller likely didn't need the reminder.

When told that he was five catches away from the Steelers record for tight ends, Miller shrugged his shoulders.

"I didn't know that," he said. "It is what it is. I'm sure at some point you can take time to look back and reflect on things, but now is not the time. Hopefully, now we're just focused on winning games at the end of the year. Those things will come as you win."

Miller has 324 catches in his career, trailing only Elbie Nickel's 329. His four catches in Week 7 moved him past Franco Harris for sixth place on the all-time Steelers list.

After a somewhat slow start, Miller has seen his role in the passing game increase in recent weeks. With the exception of a five-catch showing against Indianapolis in Week 3, he caught three or fewer passes in each of the first five games.

Since then, Miller has had more passes thrown his way. He had his best game this season in the Week 8 win against New England, when he caught seven passes for 85 yards. He got involved early and often against the Patriots, with six first-half receptions for 76 yards.

"That's just the way things shake out sometimes," he said. "We have a lot of talented receivers on the team, and teams choose to try and match up more, take our receivers out of the game, maybe it gives the tight ends more opportunities underneath."

The emergence of Antonio Brown has helped Miller's production. In four games since Week 7 against Arizona, when Brown had seven catches for 102 yards, Miller equaled his catch total from the first six games combined.

Miller, Brown and Mike Wallace have combined for 135 catches this season, and are the only trio of teammates ranked in the top 15 in the AFC in catches.

"We've got a lot of really good receivers who are capable of beating you deep, and I think defenses are trying to limit the big plays and make us go the long way, so to speak," Miller said. "With that, I guess more catches come to the underneath routes, the short and intermediate stuff."

Miller's emergence has also coincided with Hines Ward filling a more limited role in the offense. It might be easy to say that Miller is simply replacing Ward, who was best in the short and intermediate passing game. Miller, though, said that wasn't necessarily the case.

"I think we can run those routes out of different packages, and we have since I've been here," he said. "It's just the way things have shaken out, and I don't think anything's changed in that regard."

Miller has been a model of consistency since being drafted by the Steelers in 2005, missing only four games over his seven-year career. The team's Week 9 loss to Baltimore was his 100th career start.

Arians said that consistency has helped Miller find his role in the Steelers offense as new players like Brown and fellow receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery entered the mix.

"We don't have to force it to anybody anymore," Arians said. "It's just who gets open gets the ball, and everybody's throwing their hand in the pile to make sure they're getting open. Teams that want to double cover us outside, it's going to open up the inside people."

Though he's clearly not a fan of individual statistics, here's one Miller would enjoy: After the 32-20 win against Arizona in which Miller caught a scoring pass, the team is 22-6 when he scores a touchdown.

"I think the most important thing is to put ourselves in position to do something," Miller said.

"There's still a lot of football left, and I think there'll be a lot of separation over the next six games.

"Hopefully, we separate ourselves in a good way."

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11330/1192682-66-0.stm#ixzz1eoztH43R

11-26-2011, 09:39 AM
I've always admired Heath's attitude, unselfishness and most of all toughness. It's pretty tough when you (Heath, the recipiant of a hit) sends the hitter summersalting (spelling!?) backward three yards!!

11-26-2011, 12:39 PM
I've always admired Heath's attitude, unselfishness and most of all toughness. It's pretty tough when you (Heath, the recipiant of a hit) sends the hitter summersalting (spelling!?) backward three yards!!

He's exactly what he's called by the fans at Heinz Field. A Moooossseeeee.

11-27-2011, 12:15 AM
Heath is a Steeler and the perfect example of one. I wouldn't trade him for any other player out there!

11-27-2011, 01:19 AM
Heath is a Steeler and the perfect example of one. I wouldn't trade him for any other player out there!

Exactly. Physical play makes Steeler football!

05-31-2012, 07:53 AM
Heath Miller's tale gets another big twist
May 31, 2012 12:47 am
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

He has made a Pro Bowl, so it cannot be said that, as he approaches his 30th birthday, Heath Miller can become an overnight sensation.

He has been among the most popular Steelers since they drafted him in 2005, and there was the Pro Bowl season of '09, when he set a team record for tight ends with 76 receptions.

Yet, there always has been a sense around the Steelers that they did not use the 6-foot-5 Miller enough as a receiver, particularly in the shadows of the goal line. That happened even though his 337 receptions are second in franchise history among tight ends to Elbie Nickel, who some argue was more wide receiver than tight end.

And, it might be about to change.

Todd Haley's new offense promises many things, among them is making sure Miller is one of its receiving stars. At his Feb. 9 introductory news conference, Haley called Miller "one of my favorite players."

Coach Mike Tomlin elaborated.

"Haley is excited about what Heath Miller is capable of," Tomlin said. "He's been very clear about that, his excitement to work with Miller. I would imagine that the tight end is going to be a part of our plan."

It likely is the biggest part, in one sense, because the only unrestricted free agent the Steelers have signed is 6-8 tight end Leonard Pope, a veteran of six seasons in Haley's offense in Arizona and Kansas City.

The new offense has emphasized protecting the quarterback, running more effectively and high-percentage passes. They've been working at it for two weeks in practices, and even Miller can see the possibilities for more receptions than he traditionally has seen in six of his seven seasons. His 51 receptions last season were the second most of his career.

"I definitely see opportunities for that to happen. That's not to say there weren't opportunities in the last offense. We are going to be involved a lot."

He has done that, whenever coaches and quarterbacks decided to go his way. Miller has missed four games in his seven seasons. He has not missed catching a football in any game, regular or postseason, since the middle of '08, when an ankle injury forced him out of the first half of a game in Washington, his 52nd consecutive start.

"From my point of view, Heath has always been a big part of the offense," Pope said. "Heath's a great player and a great person to learn from. I'm just happy to be here and playing with that guy."

The two could make an impression as bookends near the goal line and give Ben Roethlisberger those tall targets he has longed to have. The Steelers haven't worked much on red-zone drills this spring, but it would be surprising if Miller is not a big part of them. He has only 31 touchdown receptions, an average of a little more than four a season. In each of the past two seasons, he had two, his career lows.

"It's too early to tell," Miller said of Haley's red-zone plans. "We haven't been through it enough. Right now, we're throwing everything against the wall, putting it all in, and, when the season comes, when game-planning comes, it'll get pared down. That's when we'll see what we have and how we want to approach this."

If, when that happens, they continue to throw everything against the wall, chances are likely to increase that Miller will get the opportunity to catch it.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.
First Published May 31, 2012 12:00 am

05-31-2012, 08:02 AM
Thanks for posting this here, Mesa. Reduces clutter and gives me the chance to read the original article as well.

05-31-2012, 08:47 AM
Miller has been under utilized for far too long. Hopefully the NFL will finally get to see what a beast we have had all along.

So thankful that Arians is gone.

Steel Peon
05-31-2012, 08:49 AM
Heath Miller was a major part of both of our Super Bowl campaigns, and to ignore a weapon of his caliber (in favor of higher profile targets) is thumbing your nose at history while sealing your own defeat. Haley should know all too well how effective he was in SBXLIII, and will exploit him to the fullest.

05-31-2012, 11:28 AM
Go Heath Go. I wear my Heath Miller jersey proudly. Come on Haley. Use this guy. He has the potential to be the best TE in football because we all know he is a hellacious blocker. Get him some catches and he will be GREAT.

05-31-2012, 12:17 PM
When the Rooney's construct the perfect Steeler, honestly, I think of Health Miller. Aaron Smith is the other.

Hawaii 5-0
06-02-2012, 01:23 PM
Prepare For Miller Time!

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012
By Christopher DiMarino

A lot of the pieces I write have involved tight ends as the subject. I believe itís an important position on the field and on the Steelers depth chart. Many figured Heath Miller would get more involved in the new offense and it appears to be heading in that direction. With the increased focus on the run game, this was to be expected. Also, letís not forget the Steelers donít have many other options at tight end or fullback. While this offense may stutter or look very different, I think it will be a successful year for Ben. This can also be true for Miller, especially considering the emergence of other weapons has also taken the spotlight off him.

Upper management has called for a more traditional Steeler offensive transformation. This means running the ball. Todd Haley was hired, likely as an extension of this change. While not a running guru, he was likely given explicit instructions on how to cater his new offense. This new offense will mean running to simplify the playbook early. Rookie offensive linemen can build confidence and chemistry run blocking. Do you need any more reasons that the Steelers will be a run heavy team this year? This might seem directionally wrong in a league that is turning more towards passing, but I am happy about this. Firstly, the Steelers are a running franchise. While this might just be a stereotype due for change, they have a history of being good at running the ball. That opens up a lot things.

Running the ball successfully allows a team to play the possession game, run the clock late in games with the lead and execute the play action. Controlling the clock and dictating the flow is a very undervalued weapon. Also, letís not forget that youíre decreasing your injury odds by telling your offensive line to block forward, and getting the ball away from your smaller (typically) quarterback and wide receivers and into the hands of a more rugged running back. Finally we have come to the point of relevance to this article, play action. The more you run, the more sense it makes to have a good blocking tight end on the field. He becomes an impromptu extra offensive lineman, until he breaks away on a play action and stings you over the middle. Miller is good enough to beat most defenses as a receiving tight end, but he is at his best in play action situations. The Steelers have the speed at wide receiver to stretch defenses and back up the safeties and open up big gaps for him.

I was a big proponent of Coby Fleener this draft. He likely wasnít chosen because a run first mentality wouldíve limited his impact (and David DeCastro was available!). But without other good pass catching options, there is a large drop off after Miller. None of the Steelers backups will scare defenses enough to warrant much attention. This creates a unique opportunity for a second tight end to prosper, but will likely lead to more 3 wide receiver type formations. Letís not also forget about the twin back formations that would unleash a guy like Chris Rainey. So while this team is overloaded with weapons, when it comes to tight ends in the passing game, Miller is the main guy.

I think many fans are scared about the playoffs. Letís face it, even if you run well during the year it is very tough to run successfully in the playoffs. In fact, the past two years have had Super Bowl champs who were in the basement during the season for rushing. I see this as an opportunity. The playoffs are a long time from now and while the run heavy theme will be apparent early, it will fade with time. The more time Haley has with Ben Roethlisberger, the more passing this offense will do. The result will be a playoff team with not as much tape as most on their passing plays. This gives them the upper hand in planning around defenses. So while the offense, in particular passing, may stutter early, I expect it to come into its own later in the year.

Iíve said it all along that I like being the underdog. If analysts think the Steelers will have an off year, then success will only drive them under their radar. Miller being featured in this new offense is equal parts common sense and speculation. Miller is capable of Pro-bowl caliber numbers; we just have to wait and see if it happens. The one thing that puts me at ease is that I know regardless if Miller has 1000 yards or not, he will be a big part of this teamís success.


Millers the sh!t
06-02-2012, 03:56 PM
I think Heath will finish regular season with 48 catches 350-425 yards and 6-8 td's.

What do you guys think?

06-02-2012, 05:40 PM
I think Heath will finish regular season with 48 catches 350-425 yards and 6-8 td's.

What do you guys think?

Too hard to say, seems like the offense is going to be totally different and I'm not sure how we will use Miller. The 2 TE set has been mentioned and since we have 3 TE's + Saunders after 4 games so it's likely we will use them, but with as much talent as we have at WR someone good will be sitting on the bench every play.

Hawaii 5-0
06-02-2012, 08:43 PM
Past Dominance Of Heath Miller Inside Red-zone Wonít Be Ignored By Todd Haley

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012 by Dave Bryan

When Todd Haley was introduced as the new offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers back in early February, one of the first Steelers players that he mentioned by name during his introductory press conference was tight end Heath Miller. Haley said at that time that Miller is one of his favorite players that he has studied and prepared for during his coaching career. That is pretty high praise for Miller and well deserved as well.

Miller is a consummate professional and one of, if not the best, well rounded tight ends currently in the league. Heading into the 2012 season it appears that Miller will not be tethered to the offensive line as much as he has been the last few seasons. Just this past week the Steelers former first round pick sounded excited about how he and the other tight ends might have a bigger role this upcoming season when he said, ďI definitely see opportunities for that to happen. Thatís not to say there werenít opportunities in the last offense. We are going to be involved a lot.Ē

While we have seen in the past how Miller can take over games between the 20's during his career, like the game he had against the New England Patriots last year, it is in the red-zone where he can likely see his contributions count the most in 2012. In his first 7 seasons in the league, Miller has compiled 54 catches inside the red-zone with 29 of them going for touchdowns. 7 more of those 54 catches produced first downs and 40 of the 54 receptions were deemed successful, meaning they gained at least 40% of the yards needed on first down, 60% of the yards needed on second down or 100% of the yards needed on both third and fourth down.

As the table of stats shows below, Miller has been targeted 79 times in total inside the red-zone over the course of his career and that computes to a 67% completion ratio. Only 3 passes thrown his way inside the oppositions' 20 yard-line have been intercepted in addition.

Of the red-zone passes thrown the last two seasons, 118 of them, Miller has been targeted just 16 times which equates to about 13.5% of all red-zone passes thrown in 2010 and 2011. In 2009, Millers best statistical season to date, he was targeted 16 times in the 64 red-zone passes thrown. That of course equates to 25%. He caught 13 of those 16 passes thrown his way in 2009 and 6 were good for touchdowns.

To summarize the stats below, Miller is money inside the red-zone.

The Steelers reportedly haven't worked much on red-zone drills this off-season as of yet, but it is expected that Miller could possible be targeted more than he has the last few seasons inside the 20-yard line of the opposition. Using play-action, something that we should see used more of than in years past, according to several Steelers players comments, should help Miller in this area of the field in addition.

The Steelers have struggled the last several season inside the red-zone and their points per game reflected that. While the offense has been able to control time of possession and move the ball down the field, the ultimate goal is to score points. With Bruce Arians now gone, it is up to Haley to make the offense better in this area of the field and it would make sense we could see him use one of his favorite players more to accomplish this.

Miller could be in for a monster 2012 season and there is no player more deserving of that on the roster.

Heath Miller Career Stats Inside Red-zone

2011 58 8 14% 3 38% 2 67% 0 2 1 27
2010 60 8 13% 4 50% 2 50% 0 2 0 29
2009 64 16 25% 13 81% 9 69% 1 6 0 82
2008 52 8 15% 5 63% 5 100% 2 3 0 31
2007 77 16 21% 12 75% 9 75% 2 6 1 94
2006 67 12 18% 7 58% 5 71% 1 4 1 37
2005 51 11 22% 9 82% 7 78% 1 6 0 64

TOTALS 429 79 18% 53 67% 39 74% 7 29 3 366