PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh Steelers backup tight end Michael Palmer has as many touchdowns this season as veteran Heath Miller after his one-yard score helped the Steelers to a 17-9 win over Jacksonville last weekend.
Yet Palmer just laughs when asked if there's a chance he can one day catch Miller's career total, currently at 41 and counting.
''Nah, that was only my fourth,'' Palmer said. ''(And) I was the first read on that play. One yard to go and I caught it for a touchdown. . To catch a touchdown in the NFL, it's always exciting, no matter how many you have. I'll bet Heath is just as excited for each one of his.''
Miller, arguably the best tight end in Steelers' history, isn't shocked that the little-used Palmer is making the most of his limited snaps for the Steelers (3-2), who play at Cleveland (2-2) on Sunday.
''He played some ball in Atlanta (2010-12), so he's been around,'' Miller said. ''It's no surprise to anyone in this locker room that he's been playing so well. But he probably told you about Atlanta and his time with (Tony) Gonzalez.''
When it was confirmed that Palmer did indeed mention Gonzalez, the usually reserved Miller yelled across the locker room to backup tight end Matt Spaeth to tell him the news.
''If I have to answer any more questions about Palmer's touchdown last week, he's going to owe me,'' Spaeth said.
When told that Palmer also mentioned the two of them, Miller didn't appear to be too impressed.
''Oh, at least he did that,'' Miller said. ''Do you have it on tape? Did he at least say some good things about us?''
Palmer certainly paid his due respect to Miller and Spaeth, the Steelers top two tight ends. And thanks to solid blocking skills and special teams play, Palmer has earned more playing time alongside those two.
''Part of it is that I've been here for more than a year now, and the coaches are more comfortable with me,'' Palmer said. ''And I'm more comfortable in the system, so it's just up to me to take advantage of it anytime they give me an opportunity. And when all three tight ends are in there, it gives our offense a lot of options.''
Ben Roethlisberger obviously has confidence in Palmer, because the Steelers quarterback tried to hit him for another touchdown Sept. 21 at Carolina. The Panthers defensive back had tight coverage and appeared to deflect the pass in the end zone before it glanced off Palmer's hands.
One area where Palmer also has not fallen short on the Steelers is his beard. Defensive end Brett Keisel sports the ultimate in facial hair. Palmer called Keisel his beard mentor.
''That's not true,'' Keisel said. ''His is coming in pretty good. It's not as good as mine, but it's getting there.''
Just like Palmer's game.
Notes: Despite practicing on a limited basis Thursday and Friday, LB Ryan Shazier (right knee) has been ruled out, along with CB Ike Taylor (right forearm) and S Shamarko Thomas (hamstring). . Keisel, Miller, FS Mike Mitchell and SS Troy Polamalu - who were given days off this past week - are ready to go.
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