Tight end Heath Miller was predictably non-committal this week about his rehab from major knee surgery and when he might be ready to rejoin the Steelers’ lineup.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was not.
“I don’t want to speak out of line, but I think this is a non-issue, truthfully,” Roethlisberger said during a visit with the DVE Morning Show. “I know it’s an issue to fans and everyone, but I see Heath, I know Heath. I know Heath better than a lot of people on this team and I see Heath jumping on boxes and doing all kinds of things.
“To me, this is a non-issue. To me, it’s like, ‘OK, let’s let Heath rest until we need him and then we’ll use him.’ There’s no doubt in my mind that Heath’s not there for
the first game.
“Maybe it’s me being optimistic but I know Heath and I know how hard Heath works. The biggest thing to me is going to be trying to hold Heath back. I think he’s going to want to get back out there too soon. I’m going to fight to say, ‘Heath, don’t play in any preseason games. Just get out there for the regular season.’”
So there you have it, the first unofficial timetable for Miller’s return:
Sept. 8 at Heinz Field against Tennessee.
Roethlisberger also had some observations regarding the way the offensive line is taking shape after opening OTAs with Maurkice Pouncey entrenched at center and David
DeCastro penciled in at right guard and the other positions to be determined.
“I still feel like that unit really can be something special,” Roethlisberger said. “(Marcus) Gilbert has busted his butt this offseason, gotten himself into shape, he’s working
hard. I told him I’m going to stay on him because I know the potential he has to be great at left tackle. Mike (Adams) is doing well at right (tackle).
“From what I see I think the left guard is Ramon (Foster), knowing that (Kelvin) Beachum is right there to back up pretty much anybody. That’s the special thing about Beachum, they actually have him playing center this year, too. He can back up all five positions but I think (left guard) is going to be Ramon’s to lose.”
That’ll be the one to keep an eye on when the pads come on in training camp.
There was considerable buzz coming out of the South Side facility early this offseason about Beachum being given a chance to win the left guard spot and ultimately taking
advantage of that opportunity.
Foster, a guy the Steelers are seemingly always trying to replace in the starting lineup, was the team’s second-best offensive lineman last season. But he, too, can back
up at guard or tackle, and might be better suited for a swing role because of his veteran experience.
And depth along the offensive line remains a big issue.
The issue at running back is finding a starter.
Le’Veon Bell was drafted on the second round to be that guy, but Roethlisberger is all for letting
competition sort that out.
“I like when you have four guys all competing,” he said. “You have four or five guys and you say, ‘Hey, there’s one job here, maybe two, go ahead and fight for it.’ I think
it brings the best out of guys.
“These guys (incumbents Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman and veteran free-agent addition LaRod
Stephens-Howling) aren’t going to just roll over easy and give the job to the rookie.”