It's been a while since Steelers tight end Heath Miller was a consistent target in Pittsburgh's offense.
He caught 76 passes for 789 yards - both career highs - in 2009, and seemed to be on the upswing of an outstanding career.
Since then, he's caught 93 passes for 1,143 yards, or, an average of 47 catches and 571 yards a season. That's a pretty significant drop in production for a player who hasn't suffered major injury. It just seemed he got lost in the addition of Young Money - the nickname of the talented trio of Steelers receivers added in 2010-11, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
Miller showed his still a viable option, especially in the red zone in Pittsburgh's 31-19 loss at Denver.
Week 1 Analysis: | Rewind First Half | Rewind Second Half | Defensive Breakdown | Injury Report | Offensive Breakdown | Winners/Losers | Game Story | Manning
Miller had four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown, including an out-and-up move that baffled Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard that went for 23 yards on 3rd-and-20. He was targeted three times in the end zone (seven in the game overall), and would have had two touchdowns if not for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing a dart instead of an arc to a wide open Miller in the right corner.
While Miller, known as a soft-spoken, humble guy, wouldn't complain about his role in the offense, his receiving ability has been put on the back burner over the past two years, partially due to the emergence of the Steelers' deep passing ability, and partially due to a shaky offensive line. Miller was often held him to help in pass protection, thus limiting his targets.
It's unfortunate. Over the last two seasons and Week 1 this year, the Steelers had won every game in which Miller caught a touchdown. Denver was their first loss when Miller crossed the goal line.
There was much talk this offseason about the Steelers' desire to run the ball, and their sagging red zone production last season strongly suggested improvement in that department was needed. The Steelers threw the ball inside the 10-yard line seven times in Week 1, with four of those being aimed at Miller. He caught one for a touchdown, caught another out of bounds, had one tipped away and would have had a second touchdown if the throw was a little higher.
If the Steelers take anything away from the loss, it's that Miller is being utilized again, and the offense will improve with him being a focal point of it.