The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Heath Miller
Position: Tight End
Experience: 11 Years
Heath Miller: old reliable. While both of those words remain true in describing him, each year the scale tips more and more to the favor of the former, as the 33-year old winds down the clock on a very productive and very successful, if underappreciated professional football career.
Miller was a key ingredient in upgrading the offense during his rookie season in 2005, when they won their first Super Bowl since the 1970s. Since then, he has become a fixture, and a security blanket for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Even if his production may be waning, he this past season also just so happened to become the first tight end in team history to record consecutive seasons of at least 60 receptions, finishing the 2015 season with 60 on the nose, with 66 the year before.
He has caught at least 60 passes four times in his 11 seasons, and at least 50 passes in every season since 2009 excluding 2010, when he missed two starts and much of a third game due to a concussion that he suffered that season.
It must be noted, though, that he had by far his least efficient season ever in terms of getting the most out of each reception. While he caught 60 passes, he totaled just 535 yards, which is the fewest receiving yards that he has had since that 42-catch 2010 season, and even then not by much.
His dismal 8.9 yards per catch represents by a significant margin the lowest mark of his career, with the previous career low coming in 2013 when he averaged only 10.2 yards per reception. For his career, he averaged 11.1 yards per receptions, so is a bit more than three yards per reception off that mark this past year.
Last year seemed a bit of a renaissance from a down year in 2013, catching 66 passes and totaling 761 yards, two of the best marks of his career, while catching three touchdowns passes, but it now seems that was just a one-year aberration as his production figures to continue to decline.
As a blocking tight end, he still has the capability of performing any task asked of him, though some are becoming less and less advised, particularly those that require him to dash out to a spot on the periphery of the field as a screen blocker. His performance is progressively becoming less consistent, but his previous body of work has set up an impossible standard to live up to at his age.
He still has some left in the tank, but the team is wise to begin scouting out his heir now as he gains less and less separation with each route run and holds on to each block for shorter durations. This sounds more critical than it is, perhaps—he is still without question a good tight end—but the end of an era is approaching.