Steelers tight end Heath Miller is off to an excellent start this season.
And is probably terrifying defensive backs and coordinators in the process.
With two of his seven catches going for touchdowns, and the rest going for first downs, Miller is proving his value within Todd Haley's offense.
What we may not be hearing enough of, though, is what makes MIller a truly unique player. Haley is using Miller as a blocker in the short passing game, opening up seams for Steelers' wide receivers to make plays in space.
While WRs Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace are off to good starts of their own, Miller is opening up a lot of ground for them in the flats. Two plays in particular stand out in the Steelers' Week 2 win over the Jets.
Check out the GIFs and breakdown after the jump.
Steelers Film Room: Steelers Front 7 Week 1 | David Paulson Week 1
The Steelers are facing a 3rd-and-9 on their own 21-yard line on the game's opening possession. They gained eight yards on the first play, but lost seven on the next, leading to the long conversion attempt.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is in shotgun, and motions Brown from left to right.
He hands off to Brown, looking to follow Miller down the sideline. Brown's lateral quickness gets him to the edge, along with a nice seal by right tackle Marcus Gilbert and a chip from running back Chris Rainey, but Miller's block on CB Ellis Lankster gives him the space he needs to get the first down.
Miller hits Lankster at the 26-yard line, and pancakes him at about the 33. In fairness, Lankster is about half of Miller's size, but Miller's ability to get ahead of the play, and not just stay on his block, but move it backward and basically choke-slam it, shows the unique blend of speed, quickness and power he possesses.
The Tan-Lined Terror moves down the field with purpose, and becomes a very dangerous player without the ball in his hands.
Later in the first quarter, the Steelers have a 1st-and-10 situation, and Roethlisberger runs Miller on a disco motion (moving toward the ball, then back out), showing a short pass that's essentially designed as a run is coming.
Brown takes a step back off the line and receives the long handoff from Roethlisberger. Miller fires out on the snap, and looks for his target.
Cornerback David Wilson saw the play and rushes to the line to try to make a play. He makes a mistake by approaching the advancing Miller to his inside, allowing Brown to cut toward the sideline.
Miller is smart enough to know Wilson isn't going to be able to circle around him and catch Brown from behind, so he nudges him a little bit, and immediately gets upfield.
The upfield target is once again his buddy Lankster. Not a thing he's going to be able to do to slow down a 250-pound beast who has a 13 yard head of steam building.
To Lankster's credit, he does exactly what he's supposed to do, which is hold the outside and either make the tackle or force the runner back inside, where the pursuing defenders can cut him off. Or, exactly what Wilson did not do.
Unfortunately for Lankster, that means taking another seven-yard Ride-n-Pound from Miller, who plants him on his back again just over the first down marker. Upon initial contact, you see Lankster bounce from Miller's chest, leaving him completely off-balance and not in a good tackling position. That gives Brown the space he needs to continue moving forward.
Miller re-engages in Lankster, and pushes him back, giving him no option but to fall into Brown's legs six yards away from where he first was in position to make the play and limit the gain.
Miller's ability to seal off an edge in the short passing game makes it extremely difficult for teams to cover the Steelers in man. As Lankster proved, a cornerback isn't going to be able to take him on in space, so teams would have to counter in man with a linebacker.
The Jets did that at the end of the Steelers' third drive drive, marking Miller with LB David Harris.
Miller caught a one-yard out pass for the touchdown, and Harris wasn't within two yards of him when he made the easy catch.
We talk about the versatility and speed of the Steelers' receiving group, and rightly so. But Heath Miller is quickly establishing himself as the most versatile and dangerous player of all of them.