PITTSBURGH — Heath Miller’s surgically repaired right knee is good to go. Jonathan Dwyer’s slimmed down body, not so much.
The Pittsburgh Steelers activated Miller, their two-time Pro Bowl tight end, off the physically-unable-to-perform list Saturday, clearing the way for Miller to play in the season opener against Tennessee a week from today.
Miller tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee in December against Cincinnati.
He hinted last week he was close to a return, a major boost for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers try to bounce back from an 8-8 season.
The 30-year-old Miller caught a team-high 71 passes for 819 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. His presence takes some of the pressure off second-year tight end David Paulson, who has emerged as a legitimate receiving threat during the preseason but remains a work in progress when called on to block.
Dwyer led the Steelers with 623 yards rushing a year ago and entered training camp in a three-way battle with Isaac Redman and Le’Veon Bell for the starting job.
The former Georgia Tech star slimmed down in the offseason, dropping 25 pounds off his 6-foot frame and hoping the lighter weight would make him quicker and more durable.
That durability appeared to give Dwyer the inside track for the top spot on the depth chart when Bell went down with a sprained right foot and Redman was slowed by a stinger.
Dwyer ran for a team-high 136 yards in the preseason, but that didn’t stop the Steelers from acquiring first-round pick Felix Jones from Philadelphia as insurance.
Jones played well enough over Pittsburgh’s final two preseason games to make Dwyer expendable.
Jones and LaRod Stephens-Howling, who missed time during camp with a minor knee injury, are the two healthiest members of the backfield heading into the opener.
While Bell’s foot problem isn’t considered too serious, coach Mike Tomlin has given no timetable for the second-round pick’s return and Redman hasn’t played since the preseason opener.
Other notable Steelers cuts include three-time Pro Bowl punter Brian Moorman. The 37-year-old engaged in a lengthy battle with incumbent Drew Butler for the punting and holding duties, but couldn’t do enough to convince special teams coordinator Danny Smith to give him the job.
Pittsburgh also released nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu. The fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft endured a troubled time with the Steelers. He was arrested last October following a chaotic chase in Pittsburgh’s South Side.
Ta’amu was driving the wrong way down a one-way street when police attempted to stop him.
He ran, crashing into four cars, injuring a woman in a parked SUV and attempting to flee on foot before being taken into custody.
He eventually pleaded guilty to charges of reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and driving under the influence and will be on probation until October 2014.
Thanks to an assist from defensive end Cameron Heyward, Ta’amu shed 30 pounds during the spring and finally appeared to be in shape, but couldn’t make inroads behind starter Steve McLendon and backup Al Woods.
Two picks in this year’s draft, cornerback Terry Hawthorne (fifth round) and wide receiver Justin Brown (sixth round), also failed to make the 53-man roster. Linebackers Marshal McFadden, Alan Baxter, Terrence Garvin and Brian Rolle were edged out following a camp-long battle for depth at the deepest position on the team.