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Driven. Determined. Committed. Relentless.
Four words that are powerful when they stand alone, but when one person personifies what all four of them stand for, you know you are talking about someone special.
Steelers' tight end Heath Miller is someone special. His teammates know that better than anyone and that is why 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 will receive the award at the 21st Annual Arthur J. Rooney, Sr. Courage House Luncheon on Nov. 5 at Heinz Field.
"It's an honor to win it," said Miller. "You would like to 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 with your teammates."
Miller suffered a knee injury on Dec. 23 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and finished the year on injured reserve. He spent the entire offseason working at the team's practice facility, fighting to get back on the field as soon as possible.
"It was tough," admitted Miller. "You don't feel a part of the team when you are injured. Obviously we love being around each other, being able to contribute to the team, being able to help guys and our cause. Not being able to do that was the hardest part.
"It was long and tedious. The athletic trainers did a good job of helping me along. Fortunately it's in my rear view mirror now and in the past."
Miller 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. He returned to practice on a limited basis on Sept. 11, but came back full strength in practice on Sept. 18 and saw his first action of the season against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 22.
"It's pretty remarkable if you sit back and think about the injury he had, how significant it was," said defensive end Brett Keisel, one of Miller's closest friends. "I didn't think he would be able to play at the halfway point of this season. It was that bad. On the other hand I understand Heath, the second he could start doing something, the second he could start rehabbing, he was there every day doing everything he could to make sure he could get back to playing form. It's not easy. It's a painful thing to deal with. It becomes monotonous. You feel like every day is Groundhog Day when you are rehabbing from an injury. It's not easy to stick to it.
"Getting an award like that, the courage award, it's not just about courage it's about you the person, we understand how much of a fighter he is, how great a competitor he is, and how great he is in the community. All of those things wrap into what that award is about and he deserves it."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's eyes light up when he talks about Miller, and again it's not just because of the great player he is, but the person he is.
"He is the best," said Roethlisberger. "There was never a doubt that he was going to come back. I know Heath, I know him too well. He works so hard and his passion for the game to come back is like nobody else I have seen. I have always said he is the best tight end in the game and he is one of the best, if not the best teammate I have ever played with in my entire life in all sports. I love him to death and am so proud of him that he won the award."
For tickets to the luncheon, which benefits Holy Family Institute and will honor alumna Joan Bruno, call 412-766-9020 x439.