A year after injury, Heath Miller making progress
At this time last season, Miller was selected as the Steelers' MVP by his teammates, the same day he had surgery to repair several ligaments in the right knee that he injured Dec. 23, 2012, against Cincinnati.
Miller missed that final regular-season game and the rehab kept him out of the opening two games this season. Still, he has been his usual solid self with 56 catches for 576 yards and one touchdown in 13 games. In 15 games last season, Miller had 71 catches for 816 yards and eight scores.
''I think I've gotten better throughout the season,'' Miller said. ''I felt good going into every game that I played, and I feel fortunate to have felt that way.''
Miller's first game was against the Chicago Bears Sept. 22 at Heinz Field. That might have been a little earlier than some believed, but not for Miller.
''My mindset was to work as hard as possible and whenever my knee was good enough to allow me to move forward, then I would be ready,'' Miller said. ''I was hoping to be ready to start the season, but I wasn't quite there. But, to come out of this thing and to miss one game at the end of last season and two games to start this year, I'm pretty fortunate.''
Steelers backup tight end Matt Spaeth, who was rehabbing a foot injury until joining the lineup Dec. 8 against Miami, believed that Miller is a model for any player - rookie or veteran - and labeled him as a consummate professional.
''I think he's as good and as reliable as he's ever been,'' Spaeth said. ''He's just one of those guys who does what he's supposed to do all of the time. So, he does it well, and he does a good job. I guess he's one of those guys who, if you're building a team, you wish you had a bunch of him.''
Miller had three catches in his opener against the Bears and six each in the next two games. After several nondescript games, which included his only touchdown this season, Miller made eight catches for 67 yards in a home win against the Detroit Lions.
''Like I've said, on Sundays, I always felt good,'' Miller said. ''But the process I had to adjust to was just getting to Sunday.''
Miller generally took Wednesdays as a maintenance day during the season, staying off the practice field but working in the weight room and on a treadmill. This was a bit of an adjustment for Miller, who usually gets just about every practice rep, but he made it work.
''You have to try to stay in shape, even if you're not taking every rep,'' Miller said. ''I'm used to taking most of the reps and my body feeling a certain way heading into a game. I don't know if that's mental or physical, but you have to adjust.''
Miller is entering the final season of the six-year, $35.3 million contract he signed in 2009. He is to make $6.02 million in 2014 and become a free agent in 2015.
Notes: LB Terence Garvin (knee) is out. ... OLB Jason Worilds (abdomen) and WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee) are questionable. Sanders said it would be a game-time decision. ... OG David DeCastro (back), OLB Jarvis Jones (illness), DE Brett Keisel (foot), TE Heath Miller (not injury related), SS Troy Polamalu (not injury related) and WR Markus Wheaton (finger) are all probable.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org