Heath Miller: '(Injury) probably will be in the back of my mind'

Kirk Irwin

Steelers TE Heath Miller is preparing for his return to the field in Week 3 against Chicago. While he'll remember his torn ACL, when he gets into the game, he'll just be playing football, writes Dale Grdnic. That and more on Brown vs. Haley and the timetable for Le'Veon Bell.

PITTSBURGH -- Has Todd Haley's relationship with the players soured to the extent that they no longer believe in his offensive system?

That's a legitimate question for the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator. It appears that the club scrapped the zone-blocking scheme installed by new O-line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. that players have raved about since the spring. That could change this week, according to right tackle Marcus Gilbert.

But will Antonio Brown's positive spin on his sideline blowup with Haley go out of control if he doesn't get the ball this week? That's anybody's guess, but there's no question that a win would calm everybody down. It won't solve anything. Better play and the return of Heath Miller and Le'Veon Bell will help. Miller could play as early as this week, while Bell isn't likely to play until after the bye week.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger believed Miller's return would be a boost.

"He's the best tight end in the game, so it would mean a lot,'' Roethlisberger said. "He's a leader and a guy we all depend on in both the run and pass game. We hope that he's able to come back."

Roethlisberger hit the nail on the head, or helmet in chest, whatever metaphor works. The current Steelers tight ends, without Miller and backup Matt Spaeth, are virtually useless in the passing game and non-existent as blockers. David Paulson couldn't block my wife, but in all fairness, she can be pretty tough.

Paulson is a hard worker, but all he did at Oregon was run pass patterns. He has a lot of work to do as a blocker to be above average. Blocking is how Miller was injured in the first place, so this area could be the holdup if he doesn't return this week. He looks good running pass patterns and still has the best hands on the team, but you really can't simulate game blocking in practice.

"It's probably going to be in the back of my mind, but once I get into the flow of a game, I think you just play football," Miller said. "True, you can't simulate live action, and I missed out on those chances in the preseason. So, we'll have to see what happens when I get in a game. That's the only way to tell."

Whenever Miller returns, that certainly won't increase Roethlisberger's passes to Brown. The Steelers signal-caller has missed his good friend this season, a guy he could count on when the offense needed a lift. The problem with looking at the stats for receivers -- times targeted, catches and yardage -- is that it doesn't count plays called to a receiver. Only the players know that number, but due to coverage or any number of other circumstances, the pass could go in another direction.

"I think I went out and executed the game plan and did everything possible,'' Brown said. "(And) being a hungry playmaker on this team, I did what any good player around should do. I talked to the person who controls the scheme of the game to see what he could do to get (Brown) involved and see what could be done to get things going."

Sure, Brown went to the Haley. He's to be commended for that, but doing it on the sideline was not the venue to air his issues. Maybe he should have waited for halftime to do it in the locker room. This isn't the first time Brown complained about not getting enough passes thrown his way, but last season's reaction certainly wasn't to the extent that it was Monday night.

And wasn't it Brown who said there were problems in the Steelers locker room last season? Maybe he should take his own advice and look in the mirror.

"We can't point fingers," Brown said. "We've got to point the thumb, and each man in this group and in this room has to collectively come out and be better."

And just win a game. That would go a long way to curing what ails the Steelers.

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