Just a few hours remain before the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field for their fourth and final preseason game agaginst the Carolina Panthers. Before we turn our attention to that, let's continue with our last-minute community projections for various members of the six-time Super Bowl champs. How about we continue with one of Steeler Nation's absolute favorites - tight end Heath Miller.
At the outset of the 2009 season, Steeler fans were wondering if Heath Miller would finally see the ball more frequently. Through his first four seasons, Miller had never caught more than 48 passes despite being one of the most sure-handed threats on the team. Fans got what they wished for, as Miller saw his reception total increase by nearly 60%.
2009 Season Statistics
76 receptions, 789 yards, 10.4 yards per reception, 6 TDs
Things to consider before projecting Miller's 2010 season:
- No 'Tone Diverting Attention - I think most of us believe that the Steelers' offense can be plenty potent without Santonio Holmes in the fold. But I do think that Miller benefited from defenses having to key in on three different but equally dangerous wide receivers - Hines Ward, Holmes and Mike Wallace. The end result was Miller finding plenty of room to operate, particularly in the flats and after plays had broken down and Roethlisberger was outside the pocket. Will defenses spend more capital trying to shut down Miller this year now that Pittsburgh seemingly has one fewer explosive playmaker at WR?
No Big Ben To Start The Year - This one's obvious, but it's worth mentioning that Roethlisberger and Miller do seem to have a fantastic understanding of one another out there on the field. Specifically, Miller is outstanding at knowing when to slip away from his blocking assignments and leaking out to make himself available after the pocket has broken down and Roethlisberger is in search of somewhere to go with the ball. On the other hand, it's often thought that coordinators look to their tight ends more frequently when a young or backup quarterback is playing.
- Offensive Line Woes? - We've seen how Miller has been used as an extra blocker in many passing situations in recent years. Almost like an extra tackle that helps chip pass rushers off the edge, often times before releasing at the last moment as I just described. Is the loss of Willie Colon at right tackle going to prompt Sean Kugler and Bruce Arians to use Miller as much or even more in pass protection this year? Flozell Adams looked better last week, but we all know he's better at run blocking than in pass protection, particularly against speed rushers. Might Miller be needed to help out Adams more frequently than we might like to see?
With those things in mind, here are my 2010 projections for Mr. Miller...
60 receptions, 672 yards, 11.2 YPC, 8 TD
Previous 2010 Projections