Heath Back, But Put Cape Elsewhere

Heath Miller is due back this Sunday, but Jim Wexell thinks it's time to put the cape on the real Superman.

At his weekly press conference, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin talked about the imminent return of Heath Miller and added that "We are not expecting Heath to come out of the phone booth with a cape on."

Of course Tomlin is right. And he has every right to tamp down expectations for Miller, because the poor guy's not going to turn the offense around.

And judging by the way Miller ran at Thursday's practice, he should be granted patience as he works his way back into football shape.

But that didn't stop me from running the following headline on my website later that day: "Superman Nearing Return."

Hey, it wasn't about football as much as it was a tribute to a Super Man.

You know, He-e-e-a-a-th.

So, I was guilty of rampant hyperbole, but I couldn't help it. I even wanted to use a picture like the one Steelers Digest used 20-some years ago of Rod Woodson wearing the blue tights and red cape of the Superman outfit.

It reminded me of how the Steelers let Woodson go a good seven years, four Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl ring too soon, and how in September of 2011 I wrote that the Steelers shouldn't let Troy Polamalu get away the way Woodson did.

A week later, the Steelers re-signed him to a four-year contract.

Troy publicly thanked my column.


But who ended up being laughed at through two injury-plagued seasons?

Yeah, me.

Until now.

Polamalu, to quote Frank Costanza, is back, baby!

He's one of two real Supermen on this Steelers team. The other is Ben Roethlisberger, who can't perform miracles with his supporting cast. The offense doesn't have a receiving threat, a runner, the tight end's mending, and the offensive line is the youngest to open a Steelers season since 1957.

No, Ben needs Troy. The Steelers need Troy, the old Troy.

They don't need him to score the points, just get the turnovers. I read a stat at SteelersDepot.com that the Steelers are 57-12 when they get 2 turnovers.

I know how Troy can get in the middle of two turnovers, and I think Dick LeBeau's on to it.

Against the Bengals, LeBeau put the Steelers' old quarters package on the field for 19 plays. In those 19 plays, the Bengals converted 3 of 13 third/fourth downs, were 3 for 10 rushing, and completed 7 of 16 passes for 57 yards, a passer rating of 53.4. Andy Dalton had a passer rating of 97.3 against the Steelers' base defense.

The quarters package deploys six defensive backs, three of which are safeties. It was used extensively in 2008 when Tyrone Carter joined Ryan Clark and Polamalu on pass downs. Two of the biggest plays that season -- Deshea Townsend's pick six versus Dallas and Polamalu's pick six against the Ravens in the AFC title game -- came out of that package.

Last Monday night against the Bengals, the Steelers actually used four safeties. Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas was playing the nickel cornerback spot in place of William Gay, who slid outside to replace injured Cortez Allen.

So Thomas joined Clark, Polamalu and Robert Golden. Golden and Clark played deep and Polamalu played inside linebacker in place of the Larry Foote replacements, Kion Wilson and Vince Williams.

Clark cited two reasons for the success in Cincinnati.

"First, having Robert out there," Clark said. "He's played nickel, he's played dime, he's played safety, and he's smart enough to handle any position. That really helps. And it also lets Troy move around in the box, which is really good for us."

Clark said that he and Polamalu have lobbied LeBeau to re-visit the package since 2008, but that LeBeau prefers Lawrence Timmons as his dime linebacker. But Timmons has to stay out there anyway, as Polamalu replaced the effective-but- inexperienced Wilson/Williams rotation.

And this all added up to Polamalu being right in the middle of the action.

Do ya think he can stop the run a bit?

I don't have a doubt.

So I expect LeBeau to increase his deployment of the quarters package. It puts Polamalu right in the middle of the action. It puts the cape right on his shoulders.

Steel City Insider Top Stories