Thought I had seen everything when Jeff Reed missed those two field goals in a loss in Chicago in September. I mean, really. Who on the Steelers' roster is more dependable than Reed?
You said Heath Miller?
Yeah, you're right.
I watched Miller turn what should have been an easy catch Sunday into an interception for Kansas City linebacker Andy Studebaker, a huge play in the Chiefs' 27-24 overtime win. Now, I'm certain I have seen everything.
"It happens," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said on his way out of Arrowhead Stadium. "No one is super human. Although Heath is close."
It's not as if Miller never drops a ball. He had a fairly significant drop in Denver a few weeks ago before the Steelers pulled away to win. I know my memory isn't what it used to be, but it seems like that never happened more than once a year in the first four seasons of Miller's strong NFL career, a big reason the team gave him a six-year, $35.3 million contract in July. Unfortunately for the Steelers, the play Sunday made it two drops in three games and this one happened at a really lousy time.
Ahead, 17-7, early in the third quarter, the Steelers were driving again when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found Miller open over the middle on first-and-10 from the Steelers' 48. It's fair to say the 30,000 or so Steelers fans at the game expected Miller to do what he almost always does -- catch the ball and break a tackle or two before three defenders finally bring him down.
It happened that way in the first half when he caught a pass for a 41-yard gain on a play when Ward nearly blocked cornerback Brandon Flowers into next week, then again when he had a catch for 16 yards. And you should have heard those Steelers fans scream, "Heeeeeath!" when he caught a 10-yard touchdown pass to build that 17-7 lead. You would have sworn you were at Heinz Field.
This time, though, Roethlisberger's perfect pass slipped through Miller's hands and bounced off his pads, right to Studebaker. Miller angrily threw him down at the Chiefs' 38. You could almost feel the game turn.
"One of the flukiest plays I've ever seen," Ward said. "Heath, by far, is one of best guys with hands. When that happened, my first reaction was, 'Wow!' I kept saying to myself, 'Wow!' "
Miller was so upset that he didn't sit with his teammates on the bench during the Chiefs' possession that followed. He stood on the sideline with his helmet on, his frustration with himself turning to a sick feeling in his stomach when the Chiefs scored a touchdown to make the score 17-14.
"It's disappointing because I want to be a guy who, when I get a chance to make a play to help this team, I make it," Miller said, still despondent 20 minutes after the game, probably moreso than anyone in the losing locker room. "Generally, we didn't do the things a good offense does. But I can only speak for myself. I was way below the standard today. That's unacceptable."
Miller was hardly alone. Everyone from coach Mike Tomlin on down had a rotten day. Roethlisberger threw another interception to Studebaker in the Chiefs' end zone when he was hit by linebacker Tamba Hali. Wide receiver Mike Wallace lost a fumble fighting for extra yards in Chiefs territory. The offense didn't execute on a toss sweep to running back Mewelde Moore in overtime and lost 3 yards on third-and-2 from the Chiefs' 35, making the 518 yards it had gained before meaningless. The defense couldn't hold a late 24-17 lead, giving up, on consecutive plays, a 30-yard pass when cornerback Deshea Townsend was beaten and a 47-yard pass when safety Ryan Clark was torched. It also gave up a 61-yard pass in overtime when Clark missed a tackle. And, of course, the wonderful kickoff team gave up another return for a touchdown.
Miller's day fit right in with the ineptitude, wouldn't you say?
It's a shame because Miller nearly had a monstrous game. If he makes that one catch, he would have had the second 100-yard receiving game of his career. As it was, he finished with seven catches for 95 yards. The touchdown was his fifth of the season and his 54 catches for the year are a career high with six games left.
"It's all irrelevant if you don't win," Miller said, softly.
He looked as if he were going to cry.
He hardly looked super human.
Ron Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .