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Old 09-24-2007, 07:43 AM   #1
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Default Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?
Monday, September 24, 2007
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



Tight end Heath Miller pulls in a pass in front of the 49ers' Micheal Lewis in the third quarter.
Three weeks in a row now, a Steelers tight end has caught a Big Ben bullet in the end zone.

Three weeks in a row now, the Steelers have been methodical, inelegant, lopsided winners.

Three weeks in a row now, the authorities have contended that the connection between the two, if any, is almost purely happenstance.

"It's never by design, at least never a main focus," said Jerame Tuman, who scored yesterday's seemingly obligatory tight end touchdown in the second quarter of a 37-16 destruction of San Francisco. "It's just that we've got a great playmaker in Heath Miller, and a lot of our success comes off play action."

Tuman might correctly posit that tight end accomplishment would drop precipitously without the continuing ground force that is Willie Parker, but it's more than all right to think that the Steelers' tight ends are just awfully good.

"We've never been bashful about saying that," coach Mike Tomlin said in the moments after steering this Steelers team to the first 3-0 start around here in 15 years. "[But] we take what the defense gives us. I thought they did a nice job. You have to give those guys credit. They have two corners that can play some football in Walt Harris and Nate Clements, and the tight ends just stepped up big. Heath had a good day."

The constant pressure Harris and Clements brought to the Steelers wideouts might have been the primary ingredients in another sometimes curious offensive stew that consisted of more Roethlisberger completions to tight ends (five) than to wide receivers (four). But how long must we recite this sublimating tight end gospel without blurting out the somehow uncomfortable truth that Heath Miller not only can be, but probably should be considered a star in this league.

"I don't think I'm going to be 'the guy,' " Miller said with his typical borderline sheepishness. "The good thing about this offense is that we're all capable of making plays. I'm seeing different looks every week, but it's all just a matter of staying consistent and knowing that if you do that, something's going to shake out."

What shook out yesterday included four Miller catches for 82 yards, three of them on scoring drives, including a 20-yarder that sustained the drive that culminated in Roethlisberger's play action 9-yard toss to Tuman for a 14-6 lead that was never threatened.

"They were in a zone," Tuman said. "The linebacker went with me when I turned it out to the right, but he was too late."

Too late by two steps to prevent the fourth tight end touchdown of the young season. Miller and Matt Spaeth both scored at Cleveland in the opener, Spaeth again last week against Buffalo, and even with Spaeth out with a thigh injury yesterday, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians put two tight ends in the formation frequently, triggering another round of serious damage.

After three games then, three Steelers tight ends have 14 catches for 175 yards and four touchdowns. If that weren't production enough, you'll note that it was Tuman along with Najeh Davenport whose crackling blocks sprung loose [Allen] Awesome Rossum on a 98-yard kickoff return that flipped the only Steelers deficit of the season after all of 12 seconds.

"I was going back toward the wedge, tracking their '4' (the fourth attacker from the left boundary), and when I hit him I felt Allen go right off my butt," Tuman said of what would be the third-longest kickoff return for a touchdown in Steelers history. "I knew it was going to be big."

Who knew, or would claim to, that Miller was going to be the force he has become in this offense even as the No. 1 pick in 2005? His first pro catch was for a touchdown. His 87-yard scoring play in last year's opener against Miami is a Heinz Field record. He has caught touchdown passes in all three season openers since draft day and continues to develop a reputation as not only a willing but often a devastating blocker.

"Hopefully that's something we can learn from," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said about the holes Miller shot in the 49ers' 3-4 defense. "Ben looks for him a lot. We had defenses called today where we should have been tighter on him, but at the same time you saw a couple where we were tight on him and he still made plays. One was called back."

That's the one on which Miller beat backup linebacker Hannibal Navies around the right perimeter, looked back for Roethlisberger's throw, reached around the head of the linebacker and made the catch with one, but not two feet in bounds. An incredible athletic play overturned on a replay challenge, the kind of play that might make you wonder why Heath Miller can't be "the guy."

I mean, if he isn't already.
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Old 09-24-2007, 09:01 AM   #2
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Default Re: Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

Excellent article. I remember when we got Heath Miller and a friend of mine telling me he was going to be good. He's proven such, and I think Spaeth will be rock solid as well.
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Old 09-24-2007, 09:03 AM   #3
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Default Re: Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

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Excellent article. I remember when we got Heath Miller and a friend of mine telling me he was going to be good. He's proven such, and I think Spaeth will be rock solid as well.


Heath was a 1st rounder for a reason!
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Old 09-24-2007, 10:34 AM   #4
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Default Re: Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

Heath and Tuman were on FIRE! Interesting stat I heard on TV:

4 of Ben's 6 td passes have been to tight ends!
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Old 09-24-2007, 10:58 AM   #5
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Default Re: Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

The formula may seem the same, but there's something slightly different about these Steelers: They'll beat you with their TE's. Miller, Spaeth, and even Tuman have emerged as weapons.

So go ahead, shut down the recievers, we have Tight ends now.
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Old 09-24-2007, 11:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

I don't know why all the pundits are surprised. It was stated early on that the tight ends would play a big role in offense. Heath has made plays from the start. For some reason they didn't go to him last year and I think it showed. Keep feeding the big guys, it will loosen up things for the wide outs.
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Old 09-24-2007, 11:15 AM   #7
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Default Re: Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

I think it's funny how this is becoming such a major story in the Pittsburgh press, but it's all of the Steelers own doing. By ignoring the TE as a receiver for what, almost 10 years, of course it's a surprise for them to actually be a part of the passing game.
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Old 09-24-2007, 11:50 AM   #8
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Default Re: Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

All I have to say is it's about time the TE's get used more
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Old 09-24-2007, 11:51 AM   #9
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Default Re: Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

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I don't know why all the pundits are surprised. It was stated early on that the tight ends would play a big role in offense. Heath has made plays from the start. For some reason they didn't go to him last year and I think it showed. Keep feeding the big guys, it will loosen up things for the wide outs.
Exactly...Tomlin tells them we will run two and three tight end sets...and everyone is STILL surprised we are throwing to them????!!!!!
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Old 09-24-2007, 01:47 PM   #10
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Default Re: Is there a catch to Miller being 'the guy'?

I loved it before the season started! :)

What interests me is that Willy is still getting a phenomenal amount of touches, getting over 100 yd games. The multiple TE set has spread the D for him to run, and it's working well.
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