For as good as the Steelers have been throwing the ball this year, I still feel Bruce Arians has under-utilized Heath Miller. Miller's final statistics for 2007:
47 receptions, 366 yards, 12 yards per reception, 7 TDs.
He's also the #1 DVOA TE in the league. Translation: good things happen when you get him the ball.
Hardly production to sneeze at, but in my estimation, a TE as sure-handed, durable, and talented as Miller should not have fewer than 50 receptions in a season, especially when you have the NFL's leading rusher (at least through the first 14 games). In my mind, it's not acceptable that Miller only finished the year ranked 13th in receptions for TEs, especially when he had the 8th best 1st down % among TEs with at least 25 catches. Miller picked up a 1st down 68.1% of the time he caught a pass, yet we were unable to get him more than 5 catches in any game this year. Twice he had games with 5 catches. 5 times he caught 4 passes, and the remaining 9 games he caught three or fewer passes.
That's just not enough if you ask me, even when you factor in that our 27.6 passes per game were the 2nd fewest in the NFL . By the way, does anyone else find it incredible that Big Ben recorded the 3rd most TD passes (32 in 15 games) despite the team throwing it so infrequently compared to the rest of the league? By comparison, Tom Brady's offense threw it 36.1 times a game, which is roughly 33% percent more often than the Steelers. Give Big Ben 33% more attempts and he 'theoretically' eclipses 40 TDs. Tony Romo, #2 in TD passes with 36, attempted 32.5 throws per game. That was a long aside, but the point is, we were amazingly productive putting points on the board through the air for how few attempts we had.
Heath Miller had 7 of those TDs, good for a tie for 4th best by TEs. I contend that we're going to need to use him even more in these playoffs if we are to have a chance to win without Willie Parker. Perhaps we need to use him a bit more like the Redskins use Chris Cooley. That is, a bit less like a traditional TE, and a bit more like an H-Back that lines up off the line of scrimmage more. I'm confident Hines Ward will be ready to game, and if Miller can force the defense to account for him on 1st and 2nd down, maybe, just maybe Santonio will be able to wind up in 1-on-1 situations and make a big play on the outside.
There's a number of different ways this Steelers' offense can hurt you, but I feel we've neglected one of those primary options too frequently this year: throwing it to Heath Miller. I sure hope we're around long enough to change that trend before having to wait another year. Miller's certainly ready. Let's get him the damn ball.