A year after injury, Heath Miller making progress

It’s been a full year since Heath Miller had reconstructive knee

surgery. He’s happy with the way things have gone, but the

Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end is not about to celebrate.

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