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During a recent Steelers practice tight end Heath Miller did what he normally does, caught everything thrown at him. At one point he extended his arms to pull in a pass and behind the line of scrimmage you could hear his teammates shout the familiar “Heeeeeath” that fans cheer every time he touches the ball.
It’s a sign of the respect and admiration the players have for Miller, so much so that they voted him the 2013 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, presented annually to a Steelers player who has fought back from an injury or tough circumstances to return to the field.
Miller received the award at the 21st Annual Arthur J. Rooney, Sr. Courage House Luncheon hosted by Steelers President Art Rooney II and his wife Greta, which benefits Holy Family Institute,
“I don’t think there is anybody in the building that is surprised by what he is doing,” said Coach Mike Tomlin, who presented the award to Miller. “Heath is a unique guy. He is highly productive and no maintenance. We use him as a shining example to our guys every day. Nothing he does surprises us, including the things associated with rigorous rehabilitation and coming back and playing.”
Miller suffered a season-ending knee injury on Dec. 23 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and spent the entire offseason working at the team’s practice facility, fighting to get back on the field as soon as possible. He opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but was activated from it on Aug. 31 before the start of the regular season. Miller worked his way back onto the practice field and returned to action against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 22.
“It’s an honor to win this award, especially voted on by my teammates” said Miller. “You would rather not be nominated for this type of award because it means you were injured. It feels good to have it in your rear view mirror and be back on the field.”
Miller’s teammates said seeing how hard he works, not just through the injury but always, is definitely an inspiration to them.
“Even before the injury you can watch the greatness of Heath Miller, how he carries himself, how he works out and comes to work and doesn’t say anything but gets the job done at a high level,” said center
“When you are one of the core guys like him and you are around all offseason working to get back, showing all of the courage and fight in you to rehab and get back as strong as possible, us seeing him fight through it was awesome.”
The luncheon also honored Joan Bruno, a Holy Family Institute alumnus who overcame a childhood filled with struggles and heartbreak to go on to make more for herself, working for the Diocese of Pittsburgh for 33 years. She gives back to Holy Family Institute, raising money for them as a thank you for what they did for her.
“None of the children served by Holy Family could ever repay for all they did to help us—food, shelter, education, clothing, life skills, etc,” said Bruno. “Most of all, I think in their own way and in the way they knew best, they loved every child.”
ABOUT HOLY FAMILY INSTITUTE: Holy Family Institute is one of Pittsburgh’s largest social service agencies, improving the lives of children and families who are at risk. From helping youth succeed in school and in the workplace, to supporting families dealing with isolation, poverty and trauma, Holy Family Institute provides services where they are needed most: in homes, schools, and neighborhoods. Holy Family Institute helped more than 11,000 children and families in 2012. For more information, visit www.hfi-pgh.org.