clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2014 Steelers season scenarios: Heath Miller will lead Steelers in TD receptions

Miller is healthy heading into the season, which he wasn't last year. But Miller's secret is out; teams know Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger like getting him the ball in the red zone. It's tough to say whether Miller will lead the team, but he's definitely one of multiple candidates.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Scenario: Steelers tight end Heath Miller catches the most touchdown passes among the Steelers' receivers this year.

Why it will happen: There is little doubt of Miller's level of production in Todd Haley's offense when he's healthy. In just over 14 games in 2012, Miller had career highs in targets (101), yards (816) and touchdowns (eight), and could have broken his receptions record of 76 as well, if not for a torn ACL that ended his season prematurely in Week 15.

He spent the 2013 season coming back from that injury, and missed two games in that time. He was much stronger over the second half of the year, when he had 33 of his 58 targets over the team's last seven games. He became a bigger part of the passing offense as the year progressed, but didn't look fully healthy until late.

Coming into camp at 100 percent, and with the benefit of having two healthy starting-level tight ends in the lineup will help Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger find more of a pass-catching role for Miller. Too often last year, Miller was kept on the line to help in pass protection, but he should expect to see more of the receptions burden this season.

Why it won't happen: The no huddle packages likely to be deployed by the Steelers this season could limit the amount of targets Miller would receive. It's possible he'd have more value being an in-line blocker with a secondary responsibility to release and block on shorter screen passes - a style the Steelers are both comfortable with and capable of achieving success. Miller's quickness and strength are best utilized in that capacity; releasing into the flats and getting ahead of Antonio Brown and rookie Dri Archer, looking to create a cutback lane and letting either of them make a play.

Also, Miller's red zone secret was out in 2012. He often draws heavy coverage around the red zone, leading his role to be more of a decoy, drawing defenders toward him while opening up passing options underneath him. Brown will likely lead the team in receptions, and isn't a frequent target in the red zone. Miller is the player teams will look at stopping before anyone else; something that could result in more rushing opportunities inside the 10-yard line. Expect the Steelers to utilize the run, but Miller should never be discounted.

Keys: It's going to come down to red zone situations. If the Steelers can come up with another base option Miller may be freed up to make a catch or two. The high-low coverage he got inside that area for most of 2013, and the second half of 2012, suggests he simply will do his part by occupying multiple defenders. At the same time, if they want to get Miller the ball, they certainly could, as a means to help open up the running game on delays or backside screens.

Based on the "spread it around" mentality of this offense (slot receiver Jerricho Cotchery led the team with 10 receiving touchdowns last season), it's anyone guess who will have the most receiving touchdowns in 2014. Miller is a strong candidate due to his past track record and his health. Haley will have to come up with some more creative options to get him open in that area.