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Steelers Heath Miller still a question mark heading into training camp

It seems inevitable that 2012 Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller will start training camp on the PUP list. The reality is it's extremely difficult to come back that quickly from a total knee tear (three ligaments in his right knee), and it's not out of the question he starts the regular season on the PUP list as well.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers tight end Heath Miller was the team's MVP in 2012 for good reason. It wasn't just his 71 catches, or his career highs of 816 yards and eight touchdowns.

He was a force in the running game, particularly in open space.

The three ligaments he tore in a Week 16 loss against Cincinnati were critical in his ability to stalk-block and destroy hopeless defensive backs in the open field. Diligently rehabilitating after January's surgery to repair those ligaments, time just may be against Miller as he works to get back in time for training camp, which begins Friday in Latrobe, Pa.

That time simply isn't on his side.

The injury occurred at the end of the season before the last one of his contract. Without it, he may have been in an excellent negotiating position for an extension. Coming off his best all-around season, and seemingly a perfect fit with the direction offensive coordinator Todd Haley wanted to go this past season, the injury is the cruelest curse a football player can experience.

Forget about the contract extension, leg extensions are all Miller can do right now. He's said to have been running on side fields during Organized Training Activities, which is a positive thing, but judging by the way former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall looked last year (read: not good), it doesn't seem wise for the Steelers to push Miller right away. After all, he's six years older than Mendenhall, but his lateral agility is equally important in terms of getting open down the field, or reaching a second level blocking assignment in the run game.

After a season in which an exclamation point was placed behind Miller's name, as well as an asterisk indicating a Pro Bowl berth, now there is just a bold-faced question mark.

It's painful to see. Maybe only just a little more painful than the likely news expected to be delivered by the end of this week; Miller will start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

But hearing the Steelers may be in the market for another tight end may be even worse. That can't be ruled out at this point, either, and would be indicative of the team feeling Miller is still a risk to start the regular season on the PUP list, which would put him out for the first six weeks of the season.

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