The bad news keeps on coming for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A day after being eliminated from the postseason by the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers learned that tight end Heath Miller tore the ACL and MCL and “maybe even a partial PCL” in his right knee, according to coach Mike Tomlin.
Miller went down with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He was blocking in-line on a Rashard Mendenhall running play at the time. He was helped off by teammate Brett Keisel and trainer Ryan Grove.
Miller will undergo surgery and be placed on the injured reserve list. Tomlin didn’t fathom a timetable for his recovery.
“It’s an unfortunate injury to a man that’s given us everything he’s had all season,” Tomlin said.
Miller finishes the 2012 season with a team-high 71 receptions and career highs in yardage (816) and touchdowns (8).
Miller was within 5 catches of his career high of 76 set in 2009. He’s considered the favorite to win the team’s MVP award this week.
Tomlin also announced that reserve running back Baron Batch suffered an arm fracture, underwent surgery Monday morning, and will be placed on injured reserve.
Also, WR Mike Wallace suffered a hip rotator sprain; RG David DeCastro injured his left hamstring; and reserve CB Curtis Brown injured his left ankle against the Bengals. Tomlin didn’t know at the time whether the injuries would threaten participation Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
BEN VS. TODD
Although Tomlin maintained last week that the perceived disagreements between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were “media driven,” Tomlin was asked how he intended “to grow the relationship” between the two offensive decision-makers.
“I know both guys are committed,” Tomlin said. “They understand their roles … I expect them to work and work hard at rectifying our issues.”
But Tomlin didn’t agree with the assessment they were at odds. Tomlin did point to Sunday’s finale against the Browns as a chance for “a springboard for growth in that area you mentioned.”
Tomlin was asked what attributed to Roethlisberger’s sub-standard performances since returning from the S-C joint injury that cost him 3½ games.
“You can attribute it to whatever you want to,” Tomlin said. “Obviously the play is what it is. It hadn’t been consistently good enough for us to win.”
Before the injury, Roethlisberger had compiled a passer rating of 100.0 and the Steelers were 6-3. In the three games since his return, Roethlisberger’s passer rating was 82.5 and the Steelers were 0-3.
More relevant, perhaps, are the third-down and turnover numbers. Before Roethlisberger’s injury, the Steelers converted 50 percent of their third downs and averaged only 1 turnover per game.
Since Roethlisberger’s return, the Steelers have converted 31 percent of their third downs and averaged 2.3 turnovers per game.
Still, Roethlisberger at his worst is better than most. The backup quarterbacks in Roethlisberger’s place had a passer rating of 60.6. In those games the Steelers converted 28 percent of third downs and averaged 4 turnovers per game.
Rashard Mendenhall didn’t start upon his return from a one-game suspension, but he did lead the Steelers with 50 rushing yards on 11 carries (4.5 avg.). Tomlin was asked if Mendenhall will start against the Browns.
“We’ll look at it and have a discussion,” Tomlin said. “I like the response Rashard had. I thought he was a positive contributor to our efforts.”
When asked about the swirling cloud of dissension that appears to be following the Steelers in light of Mendenhall’s suspension and media perceptions of a rift between Roethlisberger and Haley, Tomlin said, “That just comes with losing. It seems when you’re losing football games, things of that nature are always a part of it.”