PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Good medical news was long overdue for the Steelers after a catastrophic season opener at Heinz Field. Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller, the team’s top pass-catching weapon from 2012, may finally return when they visit Cincinnati next Monday.
The way fate conspired against the Steelers in Sunday’s loss, any help on offense would be welcomed. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and free agent running back LaRod Stephens-Howling were both lost to season-ending injuries.
Pouncey will need surgery on the ACL/MCL in his right knee after a freak collision with fellow offensive lineman David DeCastro, and Pitt alumnus Stephens-Howling tore the ACL in his own right knee after catching a pass from Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter of a 16-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
As CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora notes, they are pleased with Miller’s progress from offseason ACL/MCL surgery.
“Miller has impressed the Steelers with his recovery as well, being activated from the PUP list only recently, and a return for Week 2 is likely in his case,” he writes. “Miller was a vital cog in coordinator Todd Haley’s offense a year ago, the team is thin at tight end and faces a critical game against the Bengals in the second week.”
In 2012 Miller made 71 catches for 816 yards and eight touchdowns–a personal single-season best–before his injury. Without him in Sunday’s lineup, the passing game was largely unproductive, and backup David Johnson registered the only catch by a Steeler tight end, which went for 11 yards.
Running back Le’Veon Bell may not be far behind, according to La Canfora, and not a moment too soon. Reportedly, there was an outside chance Bell would play against the Titans, but he has not since a midfoot sprain in the second preseason game at Washington sidelined him Aug. 19.
The Steelers have re-signed running back Jonathan Dwyer, one of the most notable casualties of the final round of Mike Tomlin’s preseason cuts. He joins starter Isaac Redman and free-agent backup Felix Jones in Tomlin’s backfield.
Last year Dwyer led the Steelers with 623 yards and two rushing touchdowns, averaging four yards per carry. He broke free for 122 yards on 17 carries in a big Sunday night win in Cincinnati.
The Steelers, ironically, had to win that Sunday night game without the services of Pouncey. To replace him, the Steelers have signed former Titans center Fernando Velasco.
The present-day Bengals, meanwhile, are coming off a 24-21 loss to the Bears in Chicago Sunday.