Heath Miller: Class Amid Chaos

The Steelers' tight end had a career day Sunday, but he didn't enjoy it. And you probably know why.

PITTSBURGH -- Antonio Brown was dancing, Le'Veon Bell was taunting, Cameron Heyward was screaming. All was chaotic last Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers as the quiet guy, Heath Miller, was going about the most productive day of his sensational career.

Does Heath ever say anything in the huddle?

"Very, very rarely," said Ben Roethlisberger. "If I call the play wrong he’ll tell me."

"I can't say he doesn't say anything because we have to communicate a lot with each other when I'm out there," said Matt Spaeth, the Steelers' other tight end. "So it's not like he doesn't say anything, but it's never to the point of 'throw me the ball' or 'run it to my side.'"

There's a story Miller's high school coach once told of Miller -- the former quarterback at Honaker (Va.) High -- that after one of his teammates threw mud in an opponent's face, Miller warned him he would never get another pass if he did something like that again.

"Sounds like him," Spaeth said. "He'll stand up for what's right and what he believes in. I just think he always does it in the appropriate manner. Sometimes that's not out on the field, in the huddle. I've seen him say stuff to guys, but it's always on the sideline in a one-on-one manner when he's telling them and not yelling at them."

Maybe that's a little bit of what the Steelers need following last Sunday's chaos. Maybe they need someone to step forward, someone with class and character and the respect of the entire team. Someone like Heath Miller.

"It's already been said," Miller said with a shake of the head. "I don't think I need to beat a dead horse. It's been said. Guys understand that it's hard to win when you have 15-yarders going against you. Obviously things happen between the whistles that's out of our control if you're trying to do your job. I just think for us to go where we need to go we need to collectively -- everyone -- we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and say 'How can I correct things that I can control?'"

The Steelers committed 13 penalties for 125 yards in a 27-24 loss to Tampa Bay. The Steelers are now tied for the league lead in penalty yardage, and Mike Tomlin after the game called his team "an undisciplined group."

Overly so?

"I don't think so," said Miller. "I don't think so. We've been heavily penalized but it's early and I think we can get better. I'm not ready to call ourselves undisciplined and settle for 10-15 penalties a game. I think we can improve and I think we will."

Miller might even be able to improve on his production this week against a winless Jacksonville Jaguars team that has allowed tight ends to catch 28 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns this season. Only Dallas and Seattle have allowed more yardage to tight ends.

Not that it matters to Miller. He caught a career-high 10 passes for a season-high 85 yards and a touchdown and said of his performance: "Disappointed. We lost the game."

But his quarterback wasn't disappointed in his long-time tight end.

"He caught basically two touchdowns," Roethlisberger said of one that counted and one that was called back. "And he got his head knocked off on both of them and made a play. He’s just tough. He’s mentally tough; he’s physically tough. He gives everything he has every single day and that’s in meetings, that’s in practice, that’s in the game. That’s what makes him so special and what makes it an honor to play with a guy like that."

Is Miller an example to the younger players?

"He’s an example we all should follow," Roethlisberger said, "everybody, in life and in football, because he is a class act and someone that we all are better to know."

In his 10th year, Miller has 487 receptions for 5,470 yards and 41 touchdowns. He's third on the team's all-time list in catches, only 50 behind Hall of Famer John Stallworth. Miller is fourth in receiving yardage and fifth in receiving touchdowns, one behind fourth-place Buddy Dial.

Miller's climbing the ladder. Does it matter?

"Maybe one day it'll be more significant than right now," Miller said. "You don't really have time in the season to kind of think about those types of things. My focus is to do what I'm asked to do every week to help the team win."

And if the lack of discipline persists with these Steelers, he may have to stand up and do more than that.

NOTES -- WR Markus Wheaton was limited for a second consecutive practice by a groin injury. Another WR, Martavis Bryant, missed Thursday with an illness. Ryan Shazier (knee) and Ike Taylor (forearm) both missed and are out again. Shazier said he expects to miss three or four games, and that he has always been a fast healer. Taylor will miss at least the next seven games.


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