Monday, December 14, 2015

Miller time still serves Steelers well

Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, 10:18 p.m.
Heath Miller had 10 catches for 66 yards in Sunday's 33-20 win at Cincinnati (David Kohl/USA Today Sports)
CINCINNATI — Red dents and welts stretched shoulder-to-shoulder. Pinkish scratches streaked down both arms. Burgundy blotches mapped the back. The white residue of peeled-off athletic tape clung to his left side.
The Steelers know what their conscience looks like.
“Who's that, (No.) 83?” guard David DeCastro, casting a quick glance at the battered body of tight end Heath Miller.
“Oh man, he's one of those warrior-guys. You just love watching him play.”
Football doesn't make tight ends like Miller anymore. Too bad, because football is better when a tight end does more than just play catch with his quarterback.
Miller did play catch with Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday. That's what they do at Paul Brown Stadium.
That's why they usually send Bengals fans down the end-zone “escaLOSER” at Paul Brown Stadium.
But before we get into Miller's 10 catches that paced the Steelers in a 33-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, how about we consider what Miller didn't do at the Steelers' home away from Heinz Field.
He didn't jaw near midfield before the game. He didn't push or shove away from a Bengal after a play.
Didn't dance. Didn't pose.
Didn't make it seem like this victory was anything all that big for the Steelers.
Coach Mike Tomlin should make a point of Miller's behavior when he next meets with the Steelers. If Tomlin really wants a standard, Miller can be it.
“He doesn't say anything, but he doesn't need to,” DeCastro said of Miller. “His actions speak way louder than words.”
No Steeler is tasked with doing what Miller does regularly without much attention or many accolades.
That's his fault, though. Miller doesn't seem to care for indulgences, even in the form or recognition for a job he's been doing well for 11 seasons.
He's not a new-age tight end who runs like a receiver (and blocks like most receivers, which is to say not at all).
He's the tight end who still chips penetrating defensive linemen. He also stands up on-rushing linebackers.
But Miller also can find a soft spot in a defensive coverage. And he can catch a ball with a defensive player riding him.
Only thing Miller doesn't do for the Steelers is turn another win in Cincinnati into the equivalent of the Super Bowl.
The Steelers have won 10 of 12 in Cincinnati since Miller and Roethlisberger became teammates in 2005.
To the good people of Cincinnati: Stop asking, “Who dey?”
Dey Ben. And Heeeeeeeaaath.
Roethlisberger has passed for 2,871 yards and 18 touchdowns in the Steelers' last dozen games here. Miller has delivered 290 of those yards and three of those touchdowns. They've connected 35 times here over the years, and 15 resulted in first downs.
That's how it went down Sunday, when Miller moved the chains with four of his 10 receptions.
For one catch, Miller leaped like a man who isn't 33. For another, he dove like somebody who hadn't missed a week because of a bruised rib.
He was there for a screen. He was there when Roethlisberger had to hold the ball, shuffle a bit and then find a third or fourth option.
Not words.
“Down on the last drive,” Roethlisberger said, calling attention to a first-down run that sprung DeAngelo Williams 10 yards to the Bengals' 6-yard line.
That was another Pittsburgh Steelers first down. And that was because the Steelers' leading pass-catcher on the day made a cut-down block, the kind an NFL tight end always should be able to make.
“Not a lot of tight ends would stick their nose in there,” Roethlisberger said. “He's just so selfless about it.”
Miller remains the perfect tight end for Big Ben's big offense.
He is its conscience, too.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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