PITTSBURGH -- The fans roared their approval and chanted “Heeeaaatttth!” when he ran out of the tunnel during the pregame introductions and when the Steelers tight end caught his first pass since shredding his right knee last December.
Heath Miller would have loved nothing more than to leave the field to cheers as well but an inspired Pittsburgh rally fell short Sunday night, and the Steelers lost 40-23 to the visiting Chicago Bears.
Positives have been hard to pinpoint during the Steelers’ worst start since 2000, but Miller becoming a part of the offense again is one of them.
The Steelers limited his snaps since Miller missed all of training camp and is still working his way into football shape. But the Steelers’ 2012 MVP still caught three passes for 35 yards against the Bears, and his blocking certainly helped a running game that finally showed some signs of life.
The Steelers rushed for 80 yards -- 5 more than they had managed in their first two games combined -- and averaged 3.8 yards per carry.
“It’s good to be back out there with the team,” Miller said. “It’s the first step and hopefully something to build off of.”
Indeed, Miller figures to only get better as he builds up his stamina and re-adjusts to the speed of the game, and as coach Mike Tomlin said after Miller’s first game action in nine months, “Obviously it’s a positive thing to have him back in uniform.”
Miller’s recovery has been pretty remarkable considering he tore three ligaments in the penultimate game of 2012, including his ACL, and underwent surgery on Dec. 27.
Miller came off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on Aug. 31, and played in a game less than a month later. He did not return to the Steelers wearing a cape as Tomlin predicted in an effort to temper expectations.
But the best thing for the Steelers is Sunday night represented just another marker in Miller’s recovery -- and in some ways it is just a start.
“I’m sure I’m going to feel better and better as each week goes,” he said.