WEDNESDAY’S OTA BUZZ
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — When the Pittsburgh Steelers passed on Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round during the NFL Draft last month, many believed that was a sign that Heath Miller was expected to be ready for the regular-season opener despite knee surgery Dec. 27, 2012.
Miller, who has been rehabilitating his right knee since the surgery repaired multiple knee ligaments, didn’t buy into that theory. Miller spoke to the media after the club’s second organized team activity (OTA) Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m pleased with everything that (trainer) John (Norwig) has asked me to do so far, and I’m also pleased with the way that my knee has reacted,” Miller said. “So far, so good, I guess. (But) I don’t know. That might be a little too much forward thinking. At least it is for me. I’ve had no pressure from the coaches and trainers or from anyone in the building to rush back.
“They just want me to be 100 percent, and I want the same thing. (So), I think it’s a little too early to say anything like that. It’s a long time before training camp, so that’s a long time to make gains positively or maybe even for something to happen negatively. So, I’m just taking it one day at a time, and I hope to get better every day.”
Dr. James Bradley handled Miller’s surgery to repair the torn ACL and MCL in his right knee, but the PCL — previously believed to be torn as well — was not touched. Miller said it’s healing on its own, and Dr. Bradley told him during a recent visit that he was pleased with the progress.
Miller did not appear to have a limp when he walked, and he was not wearing a brace, either. That prospect has not been determined by he and Dr. Bradley. And it also doesn’t mean he’ll definitely be ready for training camp or play every game next season.
“I’m sure there’s a chance, yeah, but that’s too far off to think about it right now,” Miller said. “I’m just trying to get better every day, and I’m doing what I’ve been asked to do. And I’m listening to my body, so I’ll just progress that way. I’ve been doing a lot of lifting, trying to get all the strength back in my leg and getting the confidence back while I’m on the grass.
“That’s the big thing now, the main thing, because after surgery you lose a lot of strength. And then there’s some atrophy. So, I want to get it back to where it’s as strong as my other leg. I’m always going to do what’s in my best interest, so I’ll talk with Dr. Bradley. And we’ll see what he thinks I need to do, but we don’t have to cross that bridge until we get there.”
Miller was putting the finishing touches on a fantastic year when he suffered the injury during Game 15. He had 71 catches for 816 yards and eight touchdowns. So, does Miller believe this serious injury will be a setback going into his ninth NFL season?
“No, you know, if you play this game long enough 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.
“(And) you always can improve. That’s why we’re here working out now, but I think we have to get better individually if we want to get better as a team. And a lot of that falls back on us as an offense.”
With wideout Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall gone from last season and Miller possibly on the shelf to open the season, the Steelers could be looking at a rough start on offense. Miller didn’t see it that way.
“Other guys just have to step up, and we have to play to our strengths with the guys that we have,” Miller said. “And I believe we still have enough guys to be good. 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.
“I’m running now. I’m doing everything. I’m not at full speed, but I’ve been able to do everything that they’ve asked me to do. So, I’m pleased and encouraged. It’s been a long process, and it’s still going to be a long process. But I’m going to keep taking it one day at a time and get better every day.”
The Steelers likely feel the same way about their offense.
No. 1 Pick Hampered
Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Steelers first-round pick during the NFL Draft last month, appeared to get off to a slow start that he attributed to a tweaked hamstring. But he didn’t make any excuses.
“I’m healthy, man,” Jones said. I’m doing what my coaches are asking me to do. I did a lot, not a whole lot (so far in OTAs). I kind of tweaked it in rookie camp. I think it started when I tripped running my 40 at Pro Day. Everything is good, though, and I’m going to continue to work and grind.”
Notes: The Steelers have one more OTA scheduled this week. They practice from 10:30 a.m. until noon Thursday and don’t return to the field until next Tuesday for Week 2.