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Heeeeeath! Steelers tight end Heath Miller finding niche in new-look offense

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PITTSBURGH — Heath Miller is back.

Not that the Pittsburgh Steelers 10th-year tight end went anywhere, but Miller appears to finally fully recovered from the serious knee injury that cut his 2012 season short by one game. Miller has taken everything in stride since right knee surgery in late December 2012, to repair the ACL and MCL.

He certainly looks healthy. Miller hauled in a career-high 10 catches in last week's loss to Tampa Bay, catching his first touchdown pass of the season. He has 21 receptions for 197 yards for Pittsburgh (2-2) heading into Sunday's game at winless Jacksonville (0-4).

So much for the Steelers' uptempo offense leaving him behind. Not that Miller was focused on the most productive day of a career that spans a decade.

"I really didn't realize it, but it kind of doesn't matter if you don't win," he said. "If you come up short as a team, it's always disappointing. And that will never change. So, I'd rather not do anything statistics-wise and have us win the game."

If Miller continues to put up numbers like he did Sunday and reaches 70 catches for the third time in his career, he would surpass Hall-of-Famer John Stallworth for the No. 2 spot on the club's all-time receptions list behind Hines Ward. Miller has 487 catches for 5,470 yards and 41 touchdowns since Pittsburgh selected him in the first round of the 2005 draft. All three marks are club records by a Pittsburgh tight end.

PHOTO: Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller (83) makes a touchdown catch past Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Johnthan Banks (27) in the third quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller (83) makes a touchdown catch past Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Johnthan Banks (27) in the third quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

"Maybe one day, it'll be more significant than it is right now, but you don't really have time during the season to think about those types of things," Miller said. "My focus each week is to do what I'm asked to do to help the team win, and that's the main goal."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has consistently relied on Miller in difficult spots. When a short scoring pass to Miller in the third quarter on Sunday was called back due to a penalty, Roethlisberger went right back to Miller a few plays later.

"He can make the tough catches, and he can create openings," Roethlisberger said. "He can take the big shot, and if you get him the ball in space he's going to create yards."

Miller is a security blanket but can still run at age 31. He hauled in a 19-yard reception against the Buccaneers and had a 30-yarder at Carolina. But he also had a drop against Tampa Bay, which Roethlisberger said just proved Miller was human after all.

"Heath is asked to do a lot," tight end Matt Spaeth said. "He stays in a lot to block, and he usually is a big part of the passing game. When you consider that he had reconstructive knee surgery, I think he's definitely back from that injury, and it shows."

Notes: WR Martavis Bryant (illness), ILB Ryan Shazier (knee) and CB Ike Taylor (right forearm) did not practice Thursday. . Shazier and Taylor already have been ruled out, while Bryant missed a second straight day. ... OG Ramon Foster, OT Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and OLB James Harrison (illness) were full participants, along with DE Brett Keisel, TE Heath Miller, FS Mike Mitchell and SS Troy Polamalu, who were all back after a maintenance day off Wednesday.


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