By Matthew Marczi
End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Heath Miller
Position: Tight End
Experience: 9 Years
Even though he was never quite his old self during the 2013 season, during which he played less than a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery, it was clear in the early goings of the season that the Pittsburgh Steelers sorely missed the services of their Pro Bowl veteran tight end, Heath Miller.
Miller missed the first two games of the season as he continued to rehabilitate his knee, but after being worked into the offense in the third game against the Chicago Bears, he hardly missed a snap for the rest of the season.
Still, even when he was one the field, it was sometimes hard to predict which player would be showing up in the huddle: the Pro Bowl tight end or the aging tight end looking every bit the part of a player coming off a serious knee injury.
In the receiving game, Miller caught just one touchdown pass in 2013, which is the fewest in a season in his entire career. That touchdown came off a shovel pass, no less. But there were other opportunities.
In one game, he was twice stopped just at the goal line—in one instance, he had a touchdown reversed upon review. In another game, he secured a touchdown in the back of the end zone only to fail to hold on after being hit by a defensive back.
That doesn’t take away from the fact that Miller caught nearly 80 percent of his targets in 2013, catching 58 of the 74 passes aimed at him. His 593 receiving yards was even enough to be the fourth-highest total of his career. On the other hand, he never had a yards per catch average so low as the 10.2 of this season, and his lost fumble and four drops didn’t ease many nerves.
By far his greatest struggles, however, came in the run blocking department—and that has to be prefaced by pointing out that Miller in 2013 was still a notable upgrade from what they were working with at tight end in the season opener.
The odd thing is that Miller actually came out of the starting blocks with two of his best games of the year in terms of run-blocking efficiency before struggling in that department for the better part of a month and a half.
While he had some truly bad games, however, the main theme of the season was inconsistency from play to play, and one would have to think that much of that had to do with health and conditioning.
After all, he missed basically the entire offseason, and he’s not getting any younger. Because of the health issue and the increase in the focus on short passes, I expect that we’ll see a Miller closer to the 2012 version next season than the one we saw out there for the better part of last year.
Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – QB Ben Roethlisberger
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – WR Antonio Brown
Steelers End Of Season Player Exit Meetings – WR Emmanuel Sanders