Miller on track to return for Steelers
PITTSBURGH – With an offense that’s been about as potent as a drink of water, the Steelers find themselves sitting at 0-2 and in need of a boost.
That boost could come this week from tight end Heath Miller.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Miller, the team’s MVP last season, will return to full practice this week and is likely to play when Pittsburgh hosts Chicago Sunday night.
“We’re not expecting Heath to step out of a phone booth with a cape on, but we are looking forward to watching him work and letting that work guide us in terms of how we proceed throughout the week,” Tomlin said.
Miller might not be Superman, but at least he can be considered the leader of the cavalry riding in to help save the day.
The Steelers have scored only 19 points in two games, rushing for 75 yards. Only the Giants, with 73 rushing yards, have been worse.
“We’ve got to score more points,” Tomlin said, noting that the Steelers scored nine points in the opener and 10 against the Bengals. “We can’t come out and score 11 points in this ballgame and expect to be successful.”
Miller led the Steelers last season with 71 pass receptions for 816 yards and eight touchdowns. He missed the regular-season finale after suffering torn knee ligaments in the fourth quarter of a 13-10 loss Dec. 23 against Cincinnati.
The Steelers have missed Miller’s pass-catching and run-blocking ability, something that was magnified Monday night when his replacement, second-year pro David Paulson, lost a fumble at the conclusion of a 34-yard reception to the Cincinnati 16. The Bengals recovered the loose ball and scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession.
“We can’t have that,” said Tomlin. “Just as significant as that fumble, they took that opportunity and produced a score. So we are talking about a minimum of a 10-point sequence right there in the first half of the football game. That’s unacceptable in a hostile environment.”
As a result of that play and a myriad of others, the Steelers are 0-2 for the first time since 2002. Pittsburgh rebounded that year to finish 10-5-1.
“If I had all of the answers, we wouldn’t be 0-2,” said safety Ryan Clark.
The Steelers’ coaching staff, players and fans aren’t happy.
“I think that’s the appropriate mentality to have because we have yet to win a football game,” Tomlin said. “We’re not going to push the panic button.”
In addition to the return of Miller, the Steelers are expected to make a change at running back as rookie Le’Veon Bell returns from a mid-foot sprain.
Tomin said Bell will begin practicing again this week, at least on a limited basis. In the meantime, Felix Jones, who had 37 yards on 10 carries against the Bengals, will move ahead of Isaac Redman, who has 12 yards on 10 carries on the season.
“I’m not looking for feel-goods. There’s not a lot to be encouraged by in the run game. It’s been below the line and was below the line,” Tomlin said. “I was encouraged by some of the things Felix did, specifically, knowing when to bounce the ball to the perimeter, when to stick his foot in the ground and get vertical and take what’s there, knowing when to challenge some guys. I thought he showed some natural run instincts.”
Tomlin said the tripping penalty called on right tackle Marcus Gilbert in the third quarter was “poor and inappropriate.” The penalty negated a 33-yard completion. … The Steelers converted their first three third-down attempts of the season. Since then, they are 4-for-22 on third downs.