Don't expect the Steelers to sign another tight end

Rob Carr

A Post-Gazette report Tuesday suggests the Steelers aren't in the market for another tight end. The reason strongly indicates the return of Heath Miller is close.

A depth chart that reads something to the effect of David Paulson,Jamie McCoy, Peter Tuitupou, Michael Palmer and Nathan Overbay isn't without its faults, to put it mildly.

Nothing against those players, but when a team is used to going with the A-1 Abrams Tank that is Heath Miller, it's hard to re-adjust focus to a simple armored car.

If the Steelers aren't planning to bring in another tight end, as Post Gazette reporter Gerry Dulac suggests in Tuesday's edition, the overlying reason for that must be the imminent return of Miller to the lineup.

Dulac compares Miller's situation to that of former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall last season. Both suffered torn ACLs late in the previous season, and were on the PUP list through most of training camp. While each ACL injury is unique, the timetable can generally be followed to ballpark an idea of when they might be back.

Mendenhall was activated from the PUP list, giving him the ability to practice during the latter stages of training camp. He was not activated in a game until Week 5 - after three games and a bye week.

This year, the Steelers will play four games before their bye in Week 5. If Miller (or fellow tight end David Johnson) is placed on the regular season PUP list, he'd be out until the Steelers' Week 8 game against Oakland. That timetable may be too long. If the Steelers can get by with keeping four tight ends on the roster, and keeping Johnson on the PUP list, they may only have to go a week or two without Miller.

But perhaps Miller's return to the field is closer than expected. Much was made last year of Mendenhall practicing at what was said to be a high level last year. He looked decent in his first game back - a 100 yards from scrimmage performance along with a touchdown in a win over Philadelphia, but never was the same player he was before the injury.

Perhaps the Steelers are staying mum on this for the sake of level-setting expectations for Miller. Part of that strategy may be to make sure he's ready to play in a game before taking him off the PUP list.

While it wouldn't be the end of the world if the Steelers took Miller, Paulson and two of the remaining four tight ends in camp into Week 1, with Miller not getting a helmet against Tennessee, it seems more likely Miller would be involved with those plans for Week 1 as opposed to the green group they have right now.

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