Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp on July 25th, and we are digging up the '32 Scenarios in 32 Days' segment to help us all pass the time. Once a day we will be drafting a potential 2015 season scenario, telling you why it will happen, why it won't and giving you important keys for the scenario to take place.
Scenario: Heath Miller catches 70 passes and six touchdowns as he quickly becomes quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's best red-zone target.
Why it will happen:
For all the talk of Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller approaching the twilight of his career, his stats in 2014 just don't support the idea.
And, with a maturing Martavis Bryant, the NFL's best receiver in Antonio Brown, and another big target in rookie Sammie Coates, 2015 could prove to be one of the best years of Miller's career. Bryant has focused heavily this off-season on becoming a well-rounded receiver, and has the height and size -- with an added 15 pounds of muscle since 2014 came to a close -- to be nearly undefendable in the red zone. Which is precisely why teams will need to focus on him this season.
Then, there are the already-known quantities: Brown, and running back Le'Veon Bell. Bryant has been the league's best receiver over the last three years, and led the league in catches and yards in 2014. Bell is possibly the most well-rounded back in the league with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage, including more than 800 as a receiver. There are three young, dangerous weapons available on, essentially, every down for Roethlisberger.
That means the talented-but-aging Miller will likely draw less attention than he has in the past -- something we can expect he and Roethlisberger to exploit often.
Miller lacks the speed to be a threat to take it the distance from midfield without breaking some tackles. But, as a tall red-zone target with great hands and a lot of experience, he should be able to get open often with the defense's attention on the younger, more potent weapons. Lest we forget, 2012 and 2014 were two of his best seasons, statistically.
Why it won't happen:
Miller is getting old.
As one of the few remaining pieces from all three Steelers Super Bowl teams since 2005, he does have a lot of experience. But that cuts both ways. He has seen a lot and knows how to exploit a defense, but he has lost a step or two -- which is never a good thing for a guy who was never a speed burner to begin with. He has also not seemed to fully regain his pre-injury form after tearing his ACL in 2012. 2013 was a very rough season for the 10-year veteran and, while 2014 was an improvement, he just doesn't seem to be the same player anymore.
Additionally, the fact remains that the Steelers' offense is simply loaded with playmakers. The aforementioned Bryant, Brown and Bell have all shown they can find room in the passing game, and Sammie Coates was a big-play machine in college. If he can get his drops under control, that means the Steelers would have at their disposal four very gifted red-zone targets already. Surely, one more more can get open. And all this completely ignores Markus Wheaton, who has a propensity for making the ridiculous catches look routine.
Keys: With that much talent available, it's possible Miller sees his red-zone snaps decrease, which certainly limits his ability to be a red-zone target. This is the best offense Pittsburgh has seen at least since the 1970s, and probably ever, if we are being honest. It's hard to imagine it without Miller being a primary cog, but it's becoming a real possibility.
It will all come down to how well Bryant and Bell can draw attention. If Bryant continues his 2014 growth pace, he will begin drawing double teams in the red zone. If that happens, either Brown or Bell will see single coverage. Even if the defense puts six defensive backs on the field, they can't double-cover everyone. That could leave Miller wide open underneath on a regular basis.
If he is on the field.