June 26, 2003
By Teresa Varley
PITTSBURGH - Josh Miller is always quick with a one-liner, always joking, laughing and keeping things light in the Steelers locker room.
But there were times last year when that wasn't the case. When Miller's laughter was limited, almost non-existant.
And it was because of the pain that he felt. The pain in his shoulder that prevented him from doing his job the way he is used to doing it. The pain that forced him to go on injured reserve in late December and then have arthroscopic surgery on it.
Miller played much of the season with the pain, with many not knowing how severe it actually was. He knew, though.
Josh Miller is back to his old self these days.
“It was difficult. You want a sign that says 'ouch' and you want to wear that," said Miller. "At the same time you don’t want tip the other teams off that you are injured. It started in week two and it just got progressively worse to the point where it was unbearable. Coming into the playoff run it would have been more of a detriment to the team.
“It was a tough thing to do to watch someone come in and basically dance with my date. It was tough to see (Mike) Schneck throw a ball to another guy. It was tough. It was a lesson that I will take care of myself a little better. As far as the people, the fans wondering what the heck is wrong with Josh, and then found out later. They know that is not really me. I put together five good years in a row for them to know I wouldn’t just forget how to do it. This is good because now I can get back to where I was.”
The Steelers signed veteran Tom Rouen to replace Miller on the roster and it was almost as painful to watch someone do his job as it was for him to do it himself.
“It was really tough," said Miller. "The analogy I use, and this is how much I love the game, it was like watching someone be with my wife and getting high fives for it. I had to high five him a couple of times too for it. It was like – hey great punt but whoa.
“I knew it was something I wouldn’t have to get used to. They told me when I was healthy I would be back. I knew it was temporary – a fling just to keep rolling in that direction. It was good. The grass isn’t always greener. I have to take better care of the situation.
"It was tough to deal with but it’s part of it. I can’t get mad at him. He got called in here to do a job and he did a good job. As long as Mr. Rooney and Coach Cowher give me another chance I can go back to where I was and kind of pick up and forget about it."
Miller had a lot of mixed emotions to deal with at the end of the season. But there was one person who helped him through it all. His daughter Olivia.
“It’s a good test," said Miller. "It was awesome I was able to come home to a little girl who was one-years old and she doesn’t care how I punt. I just came home everyday and she had a smile and said daddy. I was able to at least come home at night and forget about it. I would sneak up later at night and watch old tape of what I used to do. It was good but it really put thinks in perspective as far as what is important in life.
“Nothing is more important than family, but punting to me is second. There is nothing close at third and fourth.”
With punting being such a priority in his life, Miller spent the off-season getting the shoulder healthy. He didn't want anything to hold him back when he returned for the off-season program and coaching sessions.
“I just went back to the basics," said Miller. "The things I used to do off the field, the projects, I put on hold. It came down to what do I want to do the most. I still want to punt, I still want to play the game, I am still hungry as hell. I told my wife I am going to dedicate the time to getting back to where I was. There was a lot of rehab and a lot of lifting. I also did a lot of eating correctly with a change of diet. In the process we have had a second child, which has been a blessing. Everything has been pretty good this off-season.”
With training camp just a month away, Miller is back to where he was before the injury. And he couldn't be happier. The smile is there. The joking is back. And the one-liners are flying.
“I am doing wonderful. I am punting the ball better than I ever have in my career, which I am happy about. I am back to 230 as opposed to 201, which I was last year. One can say I am giddy.”
Miller is also looking forward to training camp coming and the season starting.
“During camp we have situations where we do punt team during the course of camp and I know people will be taking a peak to see if Josh is back or not," said Miller. "Once they hear the ball popping, they’ll know I’m back. I already know I’m back.
“I am foaming at the month. I just want September to roll around. I love setting up the defense with 80 yards to protect and getting the offense out of a bad situation. That was my job and people got used to seeing it. That’s what I want to get back to. I’m excited about that."