Steelers' Heath Miller has no answer for when he will play


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Heath Miller does not know the answer to your question. It is the same question he has been asked scores of times since the 15th game last season, the same one a gaggle of media asked him Tuesday.

When will he be ready to play football?

"It's too far away to speculate," said Miller, standing on the Steelers' practice field in his street clothes. "One thing I've learned with this thing, it's a long process, it's still going to be a long process. You don't know how your body reacts, is going to react moving forward with the new stuff. It's too early to tell."

The knee is a funny thing, especially when the torque of playing football on it rips apart three different ligaments. It happened to Miller in the next-to-last game of 2012 when the anterior cruciate, medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments tore in his right knee.

Dr. James Bradley repaired the ACL and MCL the same day the Steelers announced that their players voted Miller their most valuable player for 2012. Bradley decided it was better to allow the PCL to heal on its own.

"I'm pleased with everything I've been asked to do," said Miller. "I'm pleased, he's pleased with the way my knee's reacted. So, so far, so good."

This is new territory for Miller, who missed just four games in his eight-year career until he was forced to skip the 2012 finale. He became a starter immediately as a rookie in 2005 and last season was among his best. He led the team with 71 receptions, the first tight end to do that since Eric Green caught 63 in 1993.

"If you play this game long enough, you're not going to be healthy for your whole career," said Miller. "Guys who do that are few and far between. Major injury is bound to happen sooner or later, you just deal with it and move forward."

He's following doctor's orders, not trying to rush things. He's lifting weights and running, trying to get the strength back in the muscles.

"My ultimate goal, the most important goal is to be 100 percent, get this thing better no matter how long it takes. I think that's the overriding goal. I expect to be there."

Apparently, the Steelers expect him to be. They had a chance to get the best tight end in the draft but did not take Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert at No. 17 in the first round. Instead, Cincinnati drafted him at No. 21. The only real moves the Steelers made at tight end were to re-sign Matt Spaeth and move David Johnson back to tight end from fullback after he missed last season with a knee injury. Leonard Pope was not re-signed.

They, and second-year tight end David Paulson, will hold things together until Miller returns.

"It's a long time before training camp starts, so that's a long time to make gains positively or things can happen negatively," said Miller. "It's healing. Dr. Bradley's pleased. Every checkup he's been pleased with the process, so it's on its way."

No witch hunt for Woodley

LaMarr Woodley is back with his teammates this week, joining them on the practice field for a second day.

Presumably, one of those is the one quoted by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook as saying this about Woodley after last season:

"He was awful. He tells us he works out, but we didn't see it. He wasn't in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt."

No name was attached to that comment, and Woodley said he does not care who said it.

"It doesn't bother me at all. They're coming at the wrong person when they try coming at me. I don't listen to nothing. Playing football my whole life growing up, and you're in the spotlight, sometimes it comes with the good and the bad. You just have to know how to accept it.

"I'm one of those guys, I don't pay attention to much at all. I just go out there and do what I'm supposed to do. And these guys on the team know what I go out there and do each and every day."

So, no motivation?

"No motivation at all. Somebody talking about me doesn't motivate me. I don't pay attention to it."

Does he look around the locker room to wonder who might have said it?

"I don't do that at all, either. I don't pay attention to that. I laugh at it. I make jokes about it. I told Maurkice Pouncey he said it. Every guy I see, I say I heard you say that about me. I don't pay attention to that at all."

He also said he is healthy and over the high ankle sprain that bothered him so much in 2012. That helped keep him out of three games but also helped keep him from getting to the quarterback, too. Woodley had four sacks, his fewest since he had four in 2007 in a part-time role as a rookie.

"The ankle is great," Woodley declared. "After the season, I had time to rest on it and get off of it a little bit.

"During the season you're fighting, trying to get back on the field and you kind of set yourself back and forth a little bit, but, during the offseason, I had time to let it heal."

Hamstring limits Jones' work

Rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones hasn't been able to do a lot this week because his coaches told him to take it easy after he said he "tweaked" his hamstring while running the 40 at his Georgia pro day before the draft.

"I'm healthy, man," Jones said after watching a lot of the team drills without participating. "I'm doing what my coach asked me to do. I did a lot, not a whole lot."

Another rookie, defensive back Terry Hawthorne, a fifth-round pick, watched practice on crutches with an apparent leg injury.

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For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published May 23, 2013 4:00 AM


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