Hall of Famer
Heath Miller improving but cautious; Woodley not motivated by criticism
PITTSBURGH -- Heath Miller knows his football career isn't over, just paused. When the injured Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl tight end will be able to hit the "play" button again is anybody's guess.
While allowing there's "a chance" his surgically repaired right knee could be ready before the season opener against Tennessee on Sept. 8, Miller thinks it's too early to project just when he'll slip on his No. 83 jersey and return to his job as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's favorite target.
"I'm just trying to get better every day, and I'm doing what I've been asked to do," Miller said Wednesday. "And I'm listening to my body, so I'll just progress that way."
Five months removed from a gruesome hit that prematurely ended the best season of his career, Miller's body is telling him to be encouraged. He's already running and walked around the practice field in a T-shirt and black shorts with his right knee wrapped in tape and ice during the second day of organized team activities.
It's a far different view than the last time Miller was on a field. He made a leaping catch in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 23 and took a low shot from Bengals safety Reggie Nelson. Miller hobbled to the sideline only to return later only to have the damage become more extensive. He ended up tearing the ACL in the knee and injuring the medial collateral ligament and posterior collateral ligament too.
The road back hasn't been easy. Miller is on an aggressive lifting program to get his right leg back into shape. Just as important is Miller's peace of mind. The pain he can deal with, the uncertainty of what his next step will hold is something else entirely. Miller figures getting a handle on the former will help him with the latter.
"That's the big thing now, the main thing, because after surgery you lose a lot of strength," Miller said. "And then there's some atrophy. So, I want to get it back to where it's as strong as my other leg."
Though Miller insists he's had "no pressure" from the team in terms of his rehabilitation, the Steelers seem to believe he'll be ready sooner rather than later. Pittsburgh brought back Matt Spaeth in the offseason but declined to pick a tight end in the draft even though Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert was available when the Steelers went on the clock with the 17th pick in the first round.
Pittsburgh went with outside linebacker Jarvis Jones instead, with Eifert going to AFC North rival Cincinnati at No. 21. Miller thinks the decision not to select Eifert and his own health are two separate things.
"I think it might be a little too much forward thinking," Miller said. "At least it is for me."
Either way, there appears to be no plans for the Steelers to think about finding Miller's successor. In addition to Spaeth, the Steelers also have second-year Logan Paulson and David Johnson, who is recovering from his own knee issues. They are on the roster to provide depth.
Miller is on it to produce.
The 31-year-old was in the midst of the finest season of his career when Nelson's helmet collided with Miller's knee. He finished with 71 receptions for 816 yards and eight touchdowns and was named to his second Pro Bowl just before prior to getting injured.
Despite the lengthy rehabilitation, Miller has tried to stay upbeat. Play the game long enough, and the odds of staying healthy dwindle. He still has missed just five games in eight seasons at one of the most demanding positions in the sport.
"You're not going to be healthy for your whole career," Miller said. "Guys who are able to do that are few and far between. So, realistically, major injuries are bound to happen sooner or later. You just have to deal with them and move on."
Regardless of his status, Miller is confident the Steelers can put a disappointing 8-8 season behind them.
"I believe we still have enough guys to be good," he said. "Every year, in this league, you're going to lose somebody. So, it is what it is. It's expected, and I don't think anything drastic will happen on our end."
NOTES: LB LaMarr Woodley said he is not concerned with offseason criticism about his health. Woodley has been hindered by hamstring and ankle injuries the last two years and finished with just 4 sacks in 2012, tied for the fewest in his career. "Somebody talking about me doesn't motivate me," Woodley said. "I don't pay attention to it ... I make jokes about it." ... Jones was limited a bit on Wednesday due to a lingering hamstring issue he first experienced while trying to prep for the 40-yard dash prior to the NFL Draft. The injury is not considered serious.
Woodley needs to heed the words of a guy that's been there, done that. On Mike and Mike the other morning, Golic said emphatically, the season begins in the offseason. If you don't train and prepare then, you will be constantly behind in being game ready. This is especially true as a player ages. Woodley, I am afraid, doesnt get it.
You know, Woodley says that he is not motivated by the criticism but reports have come out saying that he is in great shape. Whatever the motivation, it is looking like he might get it finally.
Originally Posted by NorthCoast
It looks like he got it this year...
Originally Posted by NorthCoast
He just doesn't want to give the haters any satisfaction...
Yeah, he's lying. EVERY athlete has a chip on his shoulder. How many times have we heard "us against the world", even when the world isn't seemingly against them. How many guys hold grudges based on their draft position? Any time anyone doubts you, you take it personally.
Originally Posted by Slapstick
He's lying, because he wants to pretend like it wasn't true. (It was.) He also wants to downplay it, to take pressure off himself (in case he isn't able to return to previous form).
he got the big payday, he's satisfied
Hall of Famer
Wow, it's amazing how many psychiatrists we have on the message board today...
Originally Posted by Sugar
it doesnt take a psyc degree, only common sense.
Hall of Famer
Either way, Lamarr, never let 'em see you sweat.
Originally Posted by SteelCrazy
Woodley taking some accountability, here, would be nice. Own up to your faults, Lamar. Be a leader. Geez!