Early Return of Heath Miller Could Mean Big Things for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IAugust 27, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 16:  Heath Miller #83 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball against Dan Connor #52 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As reported today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller could be activated and added to the active 53-man roster prior to final cuts on Saturday.

It's difficult to quantify just how valuable the addition of Miller is to this team. He was arguably the team's most consistent offensive weapon in 2012.

If head coach Mike Tomlin does choose to leave Miller on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, he would be forced to miss the first six weeks of the season. But, the fact that Tomlin would even hint to the contrary gives hope he will be ready much sooner.

Dale Lolley, Pittsburgh Steelers beat writer for the Observer-Reporter, offered his own hypothesis of the timetable on Twitter.

 You can expect Heath Miller to come off the PUP list on Friday when the #Steelers trim to 53. I'm still guessing he returns after London

— Dale Lolley (@dlolleyor) August 27, 2013

During the preseason, the Steelers incorporated a number of personnel groupings, but it is clear that they prefer their "12 personnel" (1 RB, 2 TEs) grouping for its functionality. This package gives the Steelers extensive versatility, as they can run or throw out of these sets.

It was clear in preseason the Steelers were still committed to working out of their 12 personnel, but did so almost exclusively as a run formation. Adding Miller to the equation gives the Steelers not only a punishing run blocker, but their best weapon in the middle of the field.

However, Miller's impact extends further than that. The Steelers will motion Miller out wide, forcing the defense into mismatches they can exploit. A favorite variation is to stack both tight ends on one side, setting up either a power run formation or a play action pass.

You remove Miller from the equation and defenses don't need to respect the pass with the same diligence.

More than likely, if Miller is activated, he still will not play opening weekend. However, if he can find his way into the starting lineup by the second week of the season, it could make all the difference in the world.

A nationally televised game against an AFC North foe means all hands on deck.

At this point everyone should be cautiously optimistic about Miller's impact early in the season. But, deep down there is a part of me very excited about seeing No. 83 back on the field.