Miller Due Off PUP

Mike Tomlin's optimistic about the Steelers' star tight end. Also, notes on Kelvin Beachum's performance at TE, Ziggy Hood's contract status, and Landry Jones' coming-out party.

PITTSBURGH -- When Mike Tomlin says you're out, that sometimes means you're just close to being back in.

At least that was the approach Tuesday when Tomlin, the coach of the Steelers, told the public that tight end Heath Miller is close to being activated from the PUP list. Tomlin mentioned Miller with a group of other players -- Jarvis Jones, Le'Veon Bell and Isaac Redman -- who won't play Thursday night in the preseason finale at Carolina.

Why did he mention Miller?

"Is NOT participating," Tomlin repeated.

Tomlin rarely discusses the status of inactive players, and Miller remains on the PUP list while re-habbing his Dec. 23 knee injury.

"He's doing great. He really is," Tomlin said. "We're going to look more hardcore at him when we get back from Carolina, but the fact that I mentioned his name would give an indication that things are progressing, and progressing nicely."

The Steelers will likely activate Miller from the PUP list before the Aug. 31 cutdown deadline. They did that with Rashard Mendenhall last year, but didn't put Mendenhall in the lineup until the fourth game, Oct. 7, following a bye.

The Steelers again have a bye following their third game, so the timeline for Miller could be the same.

"I'll defer to whatever coach says," said Miller, who was surprised by his coach's comments. "Still the same," Miller said of his knee. "I don't know when I'm going to be coming back. I'm still taking it day by day, stacking positive days together, but I'm not sure when that will add up to; hopefully sooner rather than later."

Bell is out with with his foot injury and Redman is out, Tomlin said, as a "precautionary measure," but Tomlin later admitted "It's less about his health and more about needing to see the other guys I mentioned earlier."

He had mentioned using running backs LaRod Stephens-Howling, Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones on Thursday night.

Jones, the rookie outside linebacker, will miss the game with a sprained AC joint in his chest. Tomlin didn't say how long Jones will be out.


If Miller sits out the first three games, offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum proved to Tomlin he can play tight end in an emergency.

Beachum lined up as the Steelers' blocking tight end on 12 first-half snaps last Saturday. The Steelers passed and ran with equal efficiency during those snaps, and Tomlin and Miller both commented positively on Beachum's performance.

"He's definitely a better blocker than me," said Miller. "They didn't give him a chance to get down the field though, so that's still a question mark. We'll see what he can do."

Twice Beachum lined up as an offset tight end, in a bunch formation, but both times he stayed in to block.

"He's got to work on his stance a little bit," Miller said with a chuckle.

Beachum said he hasn't pestered any of the quarterbacks for a pass.

"It's not a priority," he said.

What did Beachum think of playing tight end?

"It was cool."


Coming off of another solid preseason performance, defensive end Ziggy Hood said he hasn't been approached by the Steelers about a contract extension.

With a self-imposed Sept. 8 deadline, the Steelers like to extend the contracts of players entering the final years of their contracts the week before the opener.

"Aw, shoot, that's out of my hands," Hood said. "The only thing that matters to me is if I'm playing this technique right, because if I do it wrong there will be no contract."

Is he playing this technique right?

"I believe so," Hood said. "I feel comfortable. I definitely feel comfortable." Last Saturday, Hood had a sack but perhaps more impressive was his tackle of Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe 30 yards down field.

"That's the result of heart and determination," Hood said. "Keis does it all the time, so if a man that's been here for 12 years can do it, I've got to do it too."

Brett Keisel was also down field with Hood on the play. Keisel is also entering the final year of his contract, but for many reasons the 26-year-old Hood is probably the team's top late-summer signing priority.


On Thursday night, rookie Landry Jones will receive "an extended period of time. ... the big bulk of the action offensively at the quarterback position," said Tomlin. Jones, the third and last Steelers quarterback, didn't play Saturday, but in the first two games completed 14 of 31 passes for 159 yards with a touchdown. His passer rating is 71.8.

Tomlin was asked what he wants to see from Jones.

"Just letting him play football," Tomlin said, "and see how he rides the wave associated with good plays and bad plays and series, things that you don't get a chance to see often from young guys, and a real extended view of him and seeing how he responds to how the flow of the game goes. It's a great opportunity for him."

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