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fordfixer
10-09-2009, 02:26 AM
On the Steelers: Holmes sets Miller free
Friday, October 09, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09282/1004128-66.stm

Since when did the Steelers go all Tony Gonzalez-Antonio Gates-Dallas Clark in their passing game?

This is a team that has three tight ends on its roster and treats them as the literal definition describes them. They are tight ends, players who line up next to the tackles, block and serve as a bailout target for a quarterback in trouble.

Gonzalez caught 96 passes as Kansas City's tight end last season before he moved to Atlanta this year. Clark caught 77 last season with Indianapolis and has 26 this season. Antonio Gates, whose career high is 89 receptions, has 24 with San Diego through four games.

Then, there's Heath Miller of the Steelers. He, too, had a career high last season, 48 receptions. Those were the most by a Steelers tight end in 15 years, since Eric Green set a team record at the position with 63 in '93.

But look who ranks among the league leaders in receptions: Miller has caught 24 passes through four games, tied with Gates for sixth among all NFL receivers, just two behind Clark and two off Hines Ward's team-leading 26.

Miller is on pace to catch 96 and, while that effectiveness might not continue, he certainly has become a bigger target in the Steelers' passing game. He may have Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes to thank for part of it.

"They're starting to double-cover 'Tone a little more, and you just kind of pick your poison," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians reasoned for the explosion of Miller's stats, which include a team-high two touchdown receptions. "He's getting open and doing a good job."

Miller sees it as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger merely taking his last option as defensive backs drop deep to prevent the long ball.

"A lot of plays, it's not that I'm the focus point or I'm the No. 1 option; guys are dropping back and Ben's checking the ball down, and that's when the ball comes to me or the back a lot of times. A lot of my catches come on those plays."

His average of 7.5 yards per catch backs that up; it is far below his career average of 11.5 yards. That is a statistic that more reflects how the Steelers use him, as opposed to how the Colts use Clark (14.0 yards per catch) and Chargers use Gates (14.5).

"We don't use him as a wide receiver," Arians said. "He's catching all his balls as a tight end, and that's hard to do. I think you look what San Diego does with Gates, he's more their true split receiver, as is Tony Gonzalez.

"I always felt [Miller] was the best tight end in the AFC. That doesn't put you in the Pro Bowl; your numbers do. His numbers are better than we'd hoped they would be. I still don't really care about Pro Bowls."
Roster matters

Troy Polamalu and Willie Parker have those won't-play looks about them this week.

Polamalu said yesterday he wants to play but added it is up to coach Mike Tomlin and Polamalu's doctors. He went through another limited practice wearing his brace without joining the first-team defense and looks like someone trying to shake off the rust for a possible return against Cleveland Oct. 18 at Heinz Field.

Parker did not get to practice at all again and may not suit up in Detroit because of his turf toe and the artificial turf at Ford Field.

Rashard Mendenhall will start with third-down back Mewelde Moore and halfback/fullback Carey Davis among the other healthy backs.

If Parker cannot go, the Steelers could repeat their roster switch from Saturday, signing halfback Isaac Redman from the practice squad and releasing defensive end Nick Eason for the game.

"We'll have to wait and see if Willie's available," Arians said. "If he is, we'll deal with it then, if he's not it will be Rashard and Mo and see what happens."

Arians said Mendenhall has not yet earned the right to take over the starting job when both backs are healthy. He could, however, be convinced to make such a switch Sunday in Detroit.

"His body of work isn't large enough yet to say I'm going to do that," Arians said. "Now, if he comes out and does it again this week? Yeah, then you have to re-evaluate the number of carries both guys get. But until he's a proven commodity ... Willie Parker is a proven commodity and, when Rashard is, yeah, then we'll re-evaluate who's getting what.

"I hope to get to that problem. I'd like to have two healthy running backs with those two at the same time."
And a few more things ...

Jay Leno might have been among those who took notice that Ben Roethlisberger is money in the bank, especially for television ratings. Roethlisberger, who helped Monday Night Raw raise its ratings this week with an appearance on that pro wrestling show, will appear on Leno next week. He won't go to Los Angeles but tape something here.

The defending Super Bowl champs remain No. 1, at least in the local television ratings. Through the first four weeks of the season, the Steelers lead the NFL in each team's local TV market with an average of 48.0 in local ratings and a 70 share. Those numbers are up 15 percent from this point last season. The share means that of all televisions in use in the Pittsburgh market while the Steelers are playing are tuned to Steelers games.

Chris Kemoeatu returned to practice and should return to start at left guard Sunday. He missed practice Wednesday because of a left ankle injury.

It is nearly certain that Daunte Culpepper will start for the Lions at quarterback Sunday. Rookie Matthew Stafford did not practice again because of a knee injury. Neither did star receiver Calvin Johnson (thigh injury).

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