Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ben Roethlisberger Must "Prove" He's Ready; Heath Miller is "Big Money"

"There are so few quarterbacks that actually give their team a chance to win just because they're on the field. Ben (Roethlisberger) is one." - Ryan Clark

In Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin's weekly Tuesday press conference, he informed everyone that the quarterback Clark was praising will have to work his way back to being on that field.

The Tomlin message was very clear: Big Ben must show he's healthy, strong armed and ready to go. Tomlin said that he "is closer" to health and threw on Monday.

"Ben will be given an opportunity to prove whether or not he is healthy, obviously Charlie Batch is our guy right now," said Tomlin, pointing out that the Wednesday practice will help to determine his health and availability.

He later reiterated, "We'll focus on the two healthy quarterbacks and the one who's trying to prove he's there in Ben." From the sound of it, Leftwich won't get many reps. - http://tinyurl.com/a4zhtey

Big Ben doesn't need to take any huge leap from end of last week, he just needs to continue his current path of progression. As Tomlin said, "seven days does wonders for injuries."

This is despite what Jason LaCanfora misleadingly stated in an article he wrote saying that Big Ben could have practiced Friday and that his teammates were frustrated with him over it. - http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/blog/jason-la-canfora/21231665

Nowhere else was anything found to support this. Neither by the team nor by any other writer. There wasn't even any intimation of it by any of the supposedly "frustrated" teammates.

According to Big Ben himself, he wanted to be sure that he was absolutely ready so that he wouldn't be a hindrance or liability to his team. Like last season in San Francisco for example.

"I can play through a lot of pain...mostly it's just, to me, ability," Big Ben said last Friday. "Can I make a long throw? Can I put a lot of zip on the ball?"

Per Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly, Big Ben was barely able to throw more than 10 yards at that point. That hardly sounds like someone who would be ready for an NFL football game.

That said, it would still be a surprise if he isn't suited up on Sunday to match throws with his NFL Draft mate Philip Rivers. Barring some substantial setback, he should "prove" his readiness soon enough.

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Steve Wyche of NFL.com wrote on Tuesday that Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley's offense is continuing to evolve.

He wrote of how the Ravens game showed the proof thereof. A change from the previous two games when the offense had stagnated.


Wyche wrote that "when the Steelers got the Ravens to change from rushing up the field, that opened up throws down field, especially to tight end Heath Miller, who had five catches for 97 yards." He also was the one who essentially closed the door on the Ravens. - http://tinyurl.com/bfuvptg

In doing so, Haley made use of one of the NFL's most underrated players. At least by the NFL in general. His teammates, not to mention all of Steeler Nation, know full-well how "money" Heath Miller is, and has been since being drafted out of Virginia. - http://tinyurl.com/atfzxky

One of his teammates in particular readily sings his praises.

“I’ve always looked for him,” Big Ben said. “He’s always been a comfort zone and blanket. He’s a great player, great teammate, maybe the best teammate I ever played with at any level. That’s a high compliment but he deserves it.”

Big Ben has always called Miller the best tight end in the game, and has reiterated it this season.

“Absolutely,” Roethlisberger said. “All-around tight end? Yeah. People are going to argue with numbers, but all-around tight end? There’s no doubt about it.”

If one wants to "argue with numbers," this season, in Haley's offense, there is more evidence in that category.

Last season, the Steelers scored touchdowns 47% of the time when reaching the red zone (counting post-season). During that time, 7% of the plays and 15% of the passes were sent Miller’s way.

This season, with the Steelers scoring touchdowns well over 50% of the time they visit the red zone, Miller has received almost 20% of the plays and approximately 35% of the passes.

Miller is already eyeing his career high in touchdowns, tying his 2007 output with seven. His touchdown against the Ravens broke the Steelers all-time record for most touchdown catches (38) by tight ends. He surpassed Elbie Nickel (1947-1957).

He's also ranked sixth in the NFL amongst tight ends. Those numbers don’t even include the two-point conversion against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Simply put, you can count Miller near the top if the list of those who don't miss Bruce Arians. You can also count him amongst those in Pro Bowl consideration. - http://tinyurl.com/b5w3ar5

If you need any further proof of the fact that Miller's greatness is underrepresented and under recognized, consider this article by Marc Uhlmann, @SteelDad on Twitter, on how Miller's value and importance can be exemplified in just one play. - http://tinyurl.com/a4y6nvz

Underrated, under recognized and under appreciated by the Madden-video game and fantasy-numbers driven NFL. To football purists who also appreciate the subtle niceties and nuances of the position and of the game, he's "Big Money."

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TIDBITS: INJURY REPORT: Will Johnson (concussion) has already started the process of going through the needed battery of test to play against the Chargers.

Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder) has an AC shoulder sprain that could limit him at the front part of the week.

Mike Adams (ankle) will be out again with his high ankle sprain.

Ryan Clark (hip) might be limited early in the week with a hip contusion.

Willie Colon (knee) is back this week, but could be limited again early on in the week.

LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) is questionable.

Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) is expected to practice fully this week.

Byron Leftwich (ribs) is getting closer.

Ike Taylor (ankle) suffered a right ankle fracture and will be out for a couple of weeks.

With Ike now sidelined indefinitely, Tomlin was asked if they will bring in any defensive backs for a work out.

"We could potentially do that and maybe not even necessarily to make a specific move right now, but when your lines get thin, you evaluate people for potentially the next injury," said Tomlin. "So we're open minded potentially to bringing in a corner or two..."

The Steelers will likely bring in a few cornerbacks to evaluate and work out. A few names out there are Leigh Bodden, Bryant McFadden, Kelly Jennings, Justin King and Alphonso Smith.
UPDATE: Per Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette on Twitter): "#Steelers work out CB Justin King, Gateway High and PSU. Getting updated numbers on him is all, in case they lose another CB....King was 4th-round pick by Rams in '08. Was this season with Colts, who cut him after week five."

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Per Bob Labriola: "WR Derek Moye cut from practice squad. CB Josh Victorian signed to practice squad. This is an injury-related move."