By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Heath Miller will have surgery Thursday to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee, while the posterior cruciate ligament can be rehabbed, and the Pittsburgh Steelers tight end met with his teammates Wednesday after practice.
Miller, who had a noticeable limp, immediately was greeted by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Both his young sons were with him, and the oldest was greeted by Casey Hampton. The big nose tackle tossed young Miller in the air like a rag doll and spun him around. Loud giggles resonated in the locker room, as the elder Miller downplayed the injury.
“These types of things happen,” Miller said. “It’s the nature of the game. It’s obviously disappointing to see anyone get hurt, but it happened and now I have to deal with it. So, that’s the way I’m approaching it. After the surgery, I’ll do what I need to do to get better.”
Miller was rocked early in the Bengals game by Cincy free safety Reggie Nelson, but he would not say whether that cheap shot was a precursor to the more serious injury that he suffered just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, even though he complained to Nelson afterward.
“It’s never a comfortable position to be in, but it’s part of today’s game, based on the rules, I guess,” Miller said, referring to players for the knees since high hits are being penalized and fined so heavily. “So, that’s just how it is. (But) I’m taking it day by day right now.
“We’ll do the surgery and work to get better each and every day. (The ligaments) have to be fixed. So, we’ll go from there. … It’s kind of new territory for me, so I’m going to take it day by day, make the most of it and try to get better from here.”
This week will only be the fifth missed game for Miller in eight NFL seasons, and the only previous surgery he needed was to correct a sports hernia prior to when the Steelers selected him with the 30th pick in the first round during the 2005 NFL Draft.
“Yeah, I guess that was easy, compared to this, especially now since they do it in and out, pretty much,” Miller said.
Miller noted that sports hernia procedures are done on an out-patient basis now.
Gone or on the way out
As is the case after every season, some Steelers players will be on their way out the door. Others might as well be gone already, while others could stay if the price is right.
Nose tackle Casey Hampton reportedly played for $2.8 million this season, about a $2 million pay cut by the Steelers just to re-sign him, but he is a 35-year-old, 12-year veteran. Outside linebacker James Harrison turns 35 in May, and he has two years and about $14 million remaining. Neither are likely to return.
“I definitely want to continue to play, and I definitely want to be here,”
Hampton said. “We’ll see, but I know it’s a business. And whatever happens is going to happen, and I have no control over that. I only can control what I can do on the field. Once I got healthy, I think I played pretty well this year. I came on after I got healthy, probably about midseason.
“It took me a little while, because of the knee (offseason surgery), but I started playing better once I got healthy and got comfortable in there. … Man, you’ve got to ask them what they’re going to look at as far as I’m concerned. I don’t look at things I can’t control, like I’ve said before, so that’s their decision. I just go out and play and do what I can do to help the team.”
Wideout Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall are two pending young free agents who likely will be out of the Steelers’ price range next season. Wallace was asked about this season, which he had to hit the ground running due to a late arrival, and his prospects for the next one.
“I try not to think about it, maybe a little bit, but I try not to because we still have a game left to play in this season,” And I don’t want to overlook that at all to think about the offseason. But we’ll see. … I don’t think I had to play catch-up, but some unfortunate things happened.
“I started working hard as soon as I came in, and I’ve been working hard the whole time. It’s just that some unfortunate things happened. (And) I think you can say that about the whole team as well.”
Steelers CB Curtis Brown (ankle), CB Keenan Lewis (knee), SS Troy Polamalu (not injury related) and WR Mike Wallace (hip) did not practice Wednesday, while OT Mike Adams (ankle) practiced on a limited basis.
Notes: The Chief Award (Media friendly), Joe Greene Great Performance Award (top rookie) and Steelers Team MVP will be announced Thursday. The front-runners for those honors, in order, are Casey Hampton, Mike Adams and Heath Miller.