Steelers expect to get TE Miller more involved in offense
The tight end made a good first impression and nothing has changed.
''It's not about words, it's about actions with Heath,'' Tomlin said. ''He's a great effort guy, he's a detailed guy, both on the grass and in the classroom. He really has been since the day I met him.''
Miller is also a team-first type of guy and has never looked to embrace the spotlight since the Steelers made him their first-round draft pick out of Virginia in 2005. So it wasn't a surprise that he didn't complain last Sunday when his streak of 110 consecutive games with a reception - dating to 2008 - ended in a 23-13 loss at Kansas City.
''I knew about it but it was never a big deal to me,'' he said. ''Those things are going to end sooner or later. The biggest thing is the team winning. Losing that game is what bothered me, not that I didn't catch a pass.''
Miller should become a more integral part of the offense Sunday when the Steelers (4-3) host the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals (6-0). Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return after missing four games with a knee injury and he and Miller have developed a strong on-field rapport during 11 seasons together.
Miller was targeted just eight times by backup quarterbacks Michael Vick and Landry Jones in those four games after having the ball thrown his way 16 times in the first three games.
''Heath is a dynamic player and has been here for a long time,'' Roethlisberger said. ''He's a valuable piece of this offense, so we need to include him as we need to include everybody.''
Tomlin said it wasn't so much that Vick and Jones overlooked Miller but that the offense took on a different look with backups playing. Miller also has been needed more for blocking since tackle Kelvin Beachum was lost for the season with a knee injury in an Oct. 18 win over Arizona.
''We've used him some more in protection because of circumstances in recent weeks,'' Tomlin said. ''And we're not throwing the ball, from a percentage standpoint, at the rate we were throwing it when Ben was in there. That reduces the total number of targets, and he's been a victim of that, like a lot of guys have been a victim of that. But I am not discouraged by his overall play at all.''
NOTES: Vick (hamstring), S Will Allen (ankle), DT Stephon Tuitt (knee) and LB Terence Garvin (knee) have been ruled out for Sunday's game. Though Allen will miss his third straight game, he practiced on a limited basis Friday for the second time in three days and is hopeful of returning to action Nov. 8 when the Steelers host Oakland. . C Cody Wallace missed practice because of illness but is expected to play Sunday.