Heath Miller expects to be better in 2014

PITTSBURGH – As understated as he is perhaps underrated, Heath Miller is as likely to make a bold prediction as he is to dance in the end zone after scoring a touchdown.

The Steelers tight end did say something interesting on why he expects to play better in 2014 than he did last season -- when Miller was less than a year removed from tearing his ACL.

“I should be able to put more preparation in, should be able to work like I’m used to working,” Miller said Thursday following the Steelers’ final OTA of the week. “Last year was about trying to find a new normal for myself and I’m a creature of habit, so that wasn’t easy for me. I’m fully confident by the time the season rolls around I’m going to be feeling much better than the start of last year just from a confidence perspective.”

Such talk, while hardly bravado, should add to the optimism about an offense that came into its own in the second half of last season. The Steelers averaged more than 28 points in their final nine games, and they did so with Miller contributing in all phases of the offense but not playing as big a role in the passing attack as he had in previous seasons.

That is anything but a knock on the ninth-year veteran.

Miller, after all, missed just two games in 2013 and returned to the playing field roughly nine months after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery.

He caught 58 passes for 593 yards and a touchdown, but Miller wasn’t the same player who established career highs in receiving yards (816) and touchdown catches (eight) the previous season.

Miller attributed that to the recovery from the knee injury limiting his preparation leading up to games.

“I was constantly trying to find the right balance of how much to work, how much to take off, what type of rehab is good, what type of rehab is too much,” said Miller, whose teammates voted him Steelers MVP in 2012.

Such trial and error is largely behind Miller, who practiced all three days this week after watching OTAs last year because he had just started to run again.

Miller may have a new normal but the Steelers would love nothing more than if one of the most consistent players and personalities on their team can return to his old self.

Miller had arguably been the best all-around tight end in the NFL before getting hurt.

The 6-foot-5, 256-pounder should approach that level again since he is able to take part in offseason practices and in training camp in preparation for the 2014 season.

“I expect to be better than last year,” Miller said.

The Steelers would gladly take that.