In some ways maybe it was appropriate that when Heath Miller was announced as the Steelers 2012 Most Valuable Player he wasn’t around to talk about it. Miller likely would not have felt at all comfortable talking about himself. That just isn’t his style. He always takes the quiet approach and never sings his own praises.
“I was teasing him a while back about being the team MVP and he was like, ‘yeah, right,’” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “He doesn’t think that way. That is just the humble Heath Miller. That’s what we all love about him, his humility and the way he carries himself.
“We all appreciate Heath for the way he goes about his business. He is the silent assassin, doesn’t say much but is always in the right place, doing the right things. He is one of the hardest working guys I have ever met. He definitely deserves this honor.”
Miller was selected by his teammates for the honor one day after he was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time. But he wasn’t there to enjoy it having undergone surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee, suffered against the Bengals last week.
“My heart hurt for him. It was hard to see him get hurt,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “He means a lot, everything. He is such a great football player, person, and teammate. It’s amazing how one guy who is so good, is so humble. It’s about time he got these honors. But it kills me now that he is hurt.”
Miller finished the 2012 season with 71 receptions, just five shy of tying his single-season high. He also had a career high 816 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions before being placed on injured reserve this week.
“To have him on the football field is such a security blanket, a comfort zone,” said Roethlisberger. “Even if he is covered you can still get him the ball. He knows the game. To have someone like that who is so selfless is amazing.”
Miller has 400 career receptions, only the third player in Steelers history to reach that mark. His 39 career receiving touchdowns rank him first among tight ends in team history, passing Elbie Nickel (37), and he is tied for fifth in team history in receiving touchdowns among all players.
But what he means to the team goes far beyond the numbers.
“He is probably one of the best teammates you could have,” said guard Ramon Foster. “He is always here early working. He is the epitome of a team player. He doesn’t need to say much and he doesn’t. His body of work he puts on the practice field and in the game says it all. On the field he made a lot of plays to put us in position to win games. He is a unique player and I am glad to be on the team with him.”
Miller is not just a favorite in the locker room, but also a fan favorite. Every time he touches the ball crowds at home and on the road erupt in a cheer of, ‘Heeeeeeath,’ and many of his teammates did the same when filling out their MVP ballots.
“For my ballot, I didn’t just put Heath, I put Heeeeeath,” said Keisel. “We love it when we hear that at games. We love Heath. He deserves to be MVP.”
Tags: Heath Miller
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Throughout the month of October the Steelers have shown their support for the fight against breast cancer, and that continued on Monday night when tight end Heath Miller and his wife Katie hosted Bid for Hope.
The event benefitted Glimmer of Hope, a foundation committed to raising funds for breast cancer research and finding a cure.
“It’s a cause that affects a lot of people, whether it’s someone in your family or friends, everyone knows someone who has had interaction with breast cancer,” said Miller. “We are happy to help out any way we can.
“The more people are aware of the disease and females are more in tune to their bodies, they are able to catch it before it becomes as serious. If we can help in that manner and with research and learn more about the disease and work towards a cure, we are happy to be involved.”
One of Glimmer of Hope’s main initiatives is funding an under-40 breast cancer study to help find a common thread and work towards a cure, as well as programs to help those younger women deal with the emotional and physical breast cancer battle.
“With the proceeds from Bid they can buy equipment at Hillman Cancer Center to help the study even further,” said Diana Napper, the founder of Glimmer for Hope. “They are also pushing to set protocol for premenopausal women to give them avenues from the beginning through the whole process. We want to give them avenues to make it simple and less frustrating for young women.”
Bid for Hope is in its 11th year, with Miller leading the charge after the departure of former Steelers guard Alan Faneca, who helped get it off the ground.
“Heath stepping up meant a great deal to the organization for him to pick up the ball and continue to run with it and score many touchdowns by lending his support,” said Napper. “Every year the money Bid for Hope creates some new avenue that helps young women with breast cancer. It’s with grateful heart that we thank them for doing this for us.”
In addition, defensive end Brett Keisel presented Glimmer of Hope with a check for $5,000 from the sale of his pink Da Beard Gear t-shirts during October, a shirt specially designed to help the fight against breast cancer.
“We just wanted to do something to give back,” said Keisel. “Heath and his family mean a lot to us. Plus my wife Sarah had an aunt that was close to her pass away from breast cancer. My Da Beard Gear crew got together with a witty idea and I was impressed to see the shirts raised that much money in such a short amount of time.”
The players signed autographs for those attending and a silent and live auction also highlighted the night.
“When you have the Pittsburgh Steelers participate with any organization it helps out tremendously,” said Napper. “Having them on board is a tremendous asset for us.
“When the Steelers put on pink t-shirts, or pink cleats, people take notice. They have brought this to the forefront. It’s a great avenue to educate the women.”
The Steelers have been wearing pink uniform elements throughout the month of October as part of the NFL’s Crucial Catch initiative, raising even more awareness to the fight against breast cancer.
“I think the NFL has done a pretty cool job the past few years of taking this initiative and running with it,” said Miller. “You see guys wearing pink the whole month of October. If that just opens someone’s eyes and makes them think twice about going in and getting a check-up that’s great. In the long term it could save them.”
Tags: Heath Miller
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The Steelers are one of only three NFL teams, San Francisco and Washington being the others, that haven’t played a divisional game yet this season, but that all changes this weekend with a key AFC North matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Since I have been here they have been our rivals, the Bengals, Browns and Ravens,” said linebacker Larry Foote. “We need to gain some ground. We need a win and they need a win also. It’s going to be a hard-hitting game.”
The Bengals are 3-3 overall and in second place with a 1-2 division record, but are coming off a loss to the Cleveland Browns. This week pits two teams that like Foote said need a win bad.
“It’s a division game. It’s always going to be tough no matter what the records are,” said tight end Heath Miller. “We are both teams in need of a win this weekend. We have to understand the hunger they are going to play with and we have to bring the same intensity because we need to take a step in the right direction.”
The Steelers have won nine of the last 10 games in Cincinnati, but know that they are going to have a tough battle at Paul Brown Stadium.
“It’s a tough environment,” said Miller. “We know our work is cut out for us every time we go to Cincinnati. We know we are going to have to bring energy, start the game fast because their crowd is going to be into it. It’s a big game for both of us.”
The intensity will definitely be at a fever pitch, especially with it being a nationally televised Sunday night contest, but that is what the players thrive on.
“I am excited about it,” said receiver Mike Wallace. “It’s a division game. You know they are going to come out and give us a great shot and want to play hard at the beginning. We have to come out with the same intensity as those guys.
“It’s one of the toughest divisions in football. It’s going to be physical and fun. It’s a Sunday night game. You can’t ask for anything more.”
Tags: Heath Miller, Larry Foote, Mike Wallace
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“It’s far from over,” said receiver Mike Wallace. “This is one of the craziest seasons you have seen with teams having a couple of losses already. A lot of teams wouldn’t normally have three losses already. It’s a blessing in disguise. We have to pick it up and make some plays. I think we are in good shape and will be fine.”
The Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens are both 5-1, while seven teams sit at 3-3. The Steelers and Indianapolis Colts are 2-3, while the Tennessee Titans are 2-4.
“It’s still early,” said guard Ramon Foster. “That is why smart teams start to realize you can take this a long way starting right now. It’s very essential teams start to be on the upper slope right now. There’s no doubt teams have to start realizing this is the point you are getting better or you will be out of the playoffs early this year.”
And Steelers’ players are the first to acknowledge there is no time like the present to be a team headed on that upward slope.
“Our destiny is still in our hands,” said linebacker Larry Foote. “We have 11 games left. We have to get going. Just that mindset is not going to get the job done itself. We have to go out there and execute and play our best game.
“There is so much football left. All we have to do is start stacking wins and see where we fall in December.”
In order to stack those wins the team must start putting teams away early, and not letting them get back in the game late. In the three losses the Steelers have squandered fourth quarter leads, including a 10-point fourth quarter lead in Oakland.
“We are just not finishing drives at critical times,” said Wallace. “We get the crowd to quiet down and then we let them back in games. We just have to put our foot on their throats. When we get them down we have to continue to score, continue to drive the ball and get some stops on defense.”
Another thing this team has to do to get back on track is pull out a win on the road. The three losses this year have all been on the road, in Denver, Oakland and Tennessee. Nobody believes there is a common thread that is making playing on the road more of a challenge this year, it’s just about execution.
“It’s nothing outside of we didn’t play well, we didn’t make plays in critical parts of the game,” said tight end Heath Miller. “We need to play better throughout the entirety of the game to not put ourselves in that position.
“We have to start the games fast and play with the same emotion throughout the game, not play with any lulls or lapses where they make a play and are right back in the game. We have to keep the pedal to the metal the whole game.”
Tags: Heath Miller, Larry Foote, Mike Wallace, Ramon Foster
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“It’s certainly an honor,” said Miller. “I am humbled and just honored to be recognized by them for my career there.”
Miller also was honored with a plaque on Legends’ Walk at Virginia’s Scott Stadium.
“I am proud of the school I played for,” said Miller. “I had an opportunity to meet a ton of people who are still friends to this day. I learned a lot about life and who I was as a person because I was surrounded by a lot of good people at an impressionable age in my life.”
Miller, the Steelers’ number one draft pick in 2005, won the John Mackey Award in 2004, presented to the nation’s top tight end and was a unanimous All-American. Miller holds every receiving record for a tight end in the school’s history, finishing his career with 144 receptions for 1,703 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“It was special being there because the people made it special,” said Miller of his time at Virginia. “We took a lot of pride in representing the university. Plus the relationships with the team, players and coaches, is something that will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Miller was happy to have the opportunity to see Virginia play in person, as the NFL season makes it difficult.
“I follow them as much as I can,” said Miller. “It’s hard when we are travelling or have a walk-thru when they are playing their games. But I at least always know whether they won or lost and I cheer for them from afar.”
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The old cliché ‘it’s not where you start, but where you finish’ sometimes rings true in sports, but for Steelers players their hope is to start and finish the season strong this year.
“You only have 16 chances to win in this league so every game is important,” said tight end Heath Miller. “You can’t afford to let one slip away early, so hopefully we can go out and get a win this week.”
Last year the Steelers opened the season on a disappointing note, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 35-7 on the road.
“It crucial to get started off on the right foot,” added defensive end Brett Keisel. “We are facing a very tough opponent. Every game is important, especially AFC games. We’re excited about this opportunity, this team, going out and getting a strong start to our season. That catapults you into the rest of the season. We are working hard to make sure that it is good. I am excited to see what this team can do for 60 minutes.”
Keisel has high expectations for the team. He knows they lost some veterans in guys like James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke and Hines Ward, but he thinks the nucleus of veterans who remain, combined with an infusion of youth is the perfect mix.
“I think the sky is the limit for this team,” said Keisel. “We have a lot of young, capable players in this locker room. They are going to get some opportunities here early. We have to be great on all three phases of the game if we expect to go where we want to go.
“Every year you have a new locker room, you have new guys step up and make plays for you. That is the way it is. We miss those guys, love them, they were legendary, but we have to continue to move forward.”
Tags: Brett Keisel, Heath Miller
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Tight end Heath Miller left the field before the end of practice on Thursday with an ankle injury, but on Friday he said it shouldn’t sideline him for long.
“It’s feeling good, it’s a little set back but it’s no big deal,” said Miller. “It’s nothing major. I shouldn’t be out too long.”
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Share your opinion on who you think the Steelers best first round draft pick was in the 2000s.
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Tags: Ben Roethlisberger, Casey Hampton, Heath Miller, Lawrence Timmons, Troy Polamalu
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TE HEATH MILLER
On if he felt they regained control of the game when they tied it up
“Obviously we felt good about tying the ball game. I think we had another opportunity in our two-minute drill at the end of regulation. I don’t think we were too many yards out of (field goal) range and we weren’t able to take advantage of that. The bottom line is, as a team they made more plays than we made as a result they won the game.”
On if he saw the last play of the game
“Yeah, I’m sure there are many opportunities throughout the course of the game to have us not even be in that situation. It is what it is. They made a play and they won the game.”
On if the offense didn’t finish earlier in the game
“It needs to be better, it can get better. Like you said, we moved the ball earlier in the game to set up the field goals. That’s another eight points we could have had, had we knocked in touchdowns in the first quarter. Like I said, they are a good plays, they made more plays than we did during the game.”
On if he is stunned that they lost today
“Every year we set out to win the Super Bowl, and every year we don’t. It’s a disappointment. Whether we lose this week or next week, it hurts just the same. We have to get better next year.”
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Monday, January 2
The Steelers were back at work on Monday attending meetings and hitting the weight room, getting ready for their playoff journey.
Hines Ward sat down for an interview that will be seen on Steelers.com, sharing with us his thoughts on his 1,000th career reception. Ward also showed off the football that was the 1000th catch, something that he is sure to keep for a long time.
Ward has caught passes from 13 different players during his career, including Kordell Stewart, Mike Tomczak, Jerome Bettis, Pete Gonzalez, Kent Graham, Tommy Maddox, Antwaan Randle El, Charlie Batch, Ben Roethlisberger, Dennis Dixon, Cedrick Wilson, Byron Leftwich and Emmanuel Sanders. Ward rattled off the list for us during the interview, but even he missed a few of them – not naming Wilson or Gonzalez, whose only NFL completion was to Ward.
Several players stopped by the team’s media room after meetings to talk about this week’s game, including linebacker James Farrior who weighed in on Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
“I have to admit that I was a fan of ‘Tebow Time,’” said Farrior. “I’ve been watching and cheering him on, but it’s totally different now.”
Farrior said like many he has paid attention to all of the talk about the quarterback who has become known for his late game heroics.
“Just all the media hype about it, a lot of people hated on him,” said Farrior. “I root for the underdogs. He was sort of an underdog. A lot of the coaches and staff members were on his case. I don’t think they really believed in him. I think he showed it, and they believed in him.”
Tags: Heath Miller, Hines Ward, James Farrior, Max Starks, Steelers Playoff Diary
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Tight End Heath Miller Post-Game Reaction:
How does it feel being able to move the ball down the field and not be able to take advantage tonight?
“We got beat by a good football team, give them credit. I think if you replay our comments from Wednesday on how they win games, it would probably sum this game up. They play good defense solid in the red zone, and they force turnovers. We didn’t help ourselves with some penalties, but it was their type of game they have played all year.”
Ben was a little wild in the warm up tonight, that is not what we normally see out of him is it?
“I commend him for gutting it out tonight. Just to be out there with us, says a lot about him. The guys on this team appreciate that.”
It was a weird night with lights going out twice and it was just a bizarre game start to finish wasn’t it?
“That has never happened in my playing career with the lights going out twice. What matters is what happens between the lines, and they took it to us. We have to give them a lot of credit.”
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Tight end Heath Miller is moving up the charts on the Steelers all-time receiving yards list, just 95 yards shy of passing Santonio Holmes (3,835) for ninth place
“I’ve been here long enough so I guess eventually those things should come if you’re fortunate enough to be with the same team for the number of years that I’ve been here,” said Miller who is in his seventh season with the Steelers. “I don’t think I’m catching Hines (Ward) anytime soon though.”
Miller is also just one reception away from passing Elbie Nickel (329) for most receptions by a Steelers tight end.
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TE Heath Miller
It looked like you beat them at their own game.
“I’m not sure. We just tried to execute as an offense. I think we left a few points on the field, but we are certainly happy to get the win.”
Why do you think you were able to get so open on crucial plays for the entire game?
“There were just some voids in the middle of the field. They brought some blitzes and we were able to exploit the middle of the field a little bit and move the chains.”
Did you change your approach on offense to get the ball out more quickly on pass plays?
“I’m not sure it’s a point of emphasis. We are just going to try to take what the defense gives us. And I think we did a good job of doing that and executing as an offense. Obviously, we need to finish a few drives in the end zone instead of kicking field goals, but it’s a good win.”
Re: Converting high percentage of third-down conversions.
“It’s always important to convert third downs. There are a couple I remember that were some that you probably shouldn’t convert that we were able to convert and keep the drives alive. So that was good.”
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