Steelers coach Mike Tomlin indicated Tuesday that 2012 team MVP Heath Miller is close to being activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list. Miller, a nine-year veteran tight end who tore three ligaments in his right knee in the 15th game last season, must be activated to the 53-man roster by 6 p.m. Saturday if he is to play before the sixth week of the regular season.
"He's doing great," Tomlin said. "He really is. We'll look more hard-core at him when we get back from Carolina, obviously, but the fact that I mentioned his name would give an indication that things are progressing and progressing nicely."
Miller is one of four players who have been ruled out for the final preseason game Thursday night in Carolina. The others are running backs Le'Veon Bell and Isaac Redman and rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones.
All indications have been that Miller will be activated by 6 p.m. Saturday. That doesn't mean he would play in the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Tennessee Titans, but it would allow him to practice with his teammates and test his knee in a more vigorous manner.
Miller's rehabilitation has been compared to Rashard Mendenhall's last season. Mendenhall injured his knee in the 2011 regular-season finale and was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list in August last year, but he did not play, until the sixth week of the season against Philadelphia.
The Steelers could do the same thing with Miller. Like last season, the Steelers play four consecutive games to start the season before a bye week in the fifth week.
Miller said he has not talked with Tomlin or his doctors about when he will be removed from the PUP list.
"I have no clue," Miller said. "I haven't had that conversation. You'll have to ask coach that. He may have a better answer than me at this point."
Miller said the hardest part of his rehab has been the past few weeks and watching his teammates play in games.
"This is our job," he said. "No one likes to sit down and watch your teammates play. You feel left out a little bit, but that just gives you more motivation to put into your rehab and getting your body where it needs to be."
Miller said he is undecided if he will wear a knee brace once he does return.
"I prefer not to use those things," he said. "At the appropriate time, we'll decide if I use it or not."
Tomlin said he will be watching the linebackers and running backs closely Thursday night. Redman will miss his third consecutive game with a stinger injury, but Tomlin said his absence has less to do with his health and more about wanting to see Jonathan Dwyer, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones.
Redman said he felt like he could have played in the game last week against the Kansas City Chiefs and this week, but the coaches and trainers are holding him out.
A number of young linebackers are vying for backup roles and special-teams roles heading into the final preseason game. Rookies Vince Williams, Alan Baxter and Terrence Garvin and veterans Brian Rolle, Kion Wilson and Chris Carter are competing for a limited number of spots on the 53-man roster.
"I told them [Tuesday] morning it's less about what they do on defense and more about what they do on special teams," Tomlin said. "We need more consistent above-the-line effort from some of those guys in that regard."
Tomlin also said third-string quarterback Landry Jones will take the bulk of the snaps.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published August 28, 2013 4:00 AM