It seems simple to say Steelers tight end Heath Miller is slowly recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 16 of the 2012 season against the Cincinnati Bengals. The grinding process of getting back to 100 percent is still underway, and that more than anything else is causing Miller's lack of production this season.
His teammates speak of a different reason, though.
As quoted by Ray Fittipaldo of the Post-Gazette, Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery says he sees Miller being the subject of attention from opposing defenses, and is often drawing two defenders on passing plays.
"You can see it on film," Cotchery said. "You see him being doubled. In the red zone, teams usually pick out two guys [to double-team]. Our two guys are Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. What he’s put on tape his entire career it warrants that type of response from defenses. They are playing him different and doing things to take him out of the game."
Miller has 25 catches on 39 targets so far this year, gaining 274 yards, with nearly half of those coming after the catch (123). Last season, Miller earned a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl roster with 71 catches, 816 yards and eight touchdowns, owning the red zone and leading the block on receiver screens.
It doesn't appear Miller is ready to take back his role as that primary blocker, but he still has his size. That's also part of the reason teams are blanketing him inside the 20s.
The Steelers are 13-for-29 on red zone opportunities this year, and their offense is languishing away, averaging 19.9 points per game - 25th in the NFL. If Miller truly isn't experiencing any issues with his knee, double-teaming him still didn't prevent him from being a significant factor in the red zone.
The Steelers' offense was 12th in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage (55.1) last season.
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