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The Pessimist’s Take – Through 2015 And Beyond For Heath Miller

While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.

No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.

With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.

In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the pessimistic side of the coin.

Question: Does Steelers tight end Heath Miller have more than one season left in the tank?

There has been a lively and active discussion this offseason about the Steelers’ tight end position, and more specifically about whether or not now is the time to look for Heath Miller’s successor in the draft.

This is a conversation that began two years ago already when Miller was coming off an ACL injury and many hoped that the Steelers would draft Coby Fleener in the first round. While Miller somewhat labored through the 2013 season, he did largely rebound last year and put up some of the best receiving numbers in his career.

If the Steelers’ actions at the Combine are any indication, however, the front office and coaching staff is very interested in adding talent to the tight end position, requesting interviews with just about any tight end that walks past them.

That is, of course, largely influenced by the fact that the other tight ends on the roster are scheduled to be free agents, but it also surely says something about the projected longevity of Miller’s playing career.

There’s little question that Miller, the longtime workhorse tight end, is winding down. Not that he has nothing left in the tank, but he is not the elite performer that he once was not so long ago. He struggles to gain separation in coverage, and offers little after the catch, which used to be a given as he plowed over the first defensive back who tried to take him down.

Additionally, he is no longer a superior blocking tight end, as his physical abilities more often fail him against superior competition. He looked particularly bad early on in the year, and finally during the Steelers’ Wildcard loss, during which the Ravens’ front seven largely dominated.

Is it possible that Miller has more than one season left in him? Certainly. But can he do so at the same pace that he set last year, during which he hardly missed a snap? Can he do so without additional supplemental assistance, to save some wear and tear on his body as the season progresses? I think even the coaching staff has their concerns in that area.

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