Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has only spent one season utilizing a primary tight end other than Heath Miller. Roethlisberger was the team’s first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, becoming a starter by the third game of that season due to injury. Miller was selected in the first round of the following year, and became an instant contributor.
The veteran tight end’s retirement this offseason obviously serves as a momentous change in Roethlisberger’s service as the Steelers’ quarterback, having spent 11 seasons throwing Miller the ball and counting on him to provide insurance as part of the team’s pass protection when necessary.
“It’s tough to lose Heath Miller” he recently said, describing him as “a guy I think everyone knows is a great friend and one of my favorite, best teammates of all time and a comfort, security blanket for me”. Although he reportedly knew about his friend’s decision already during the 2015 regular season, the transition away from having Miller on the field is one that he is experiencing now. “It’s going to be tough”, he said. “It’s not going to feel right going to training camp, or OTAs or minicamps and him not being there. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around what it’s going to be like not having him”.
And no doubt, there will likely be some rough patches along the way as the Steelers offense transitions from one that no longer includes him in it—or even features a primary tight end with his skill set. Over the course of his career, he caught nearly 600 passes for over 6500 yards to go along with 45 touchdowns, on a team that didn’t often feature the tight end as a significant pass catcher.
But the front office is helping Roethlisberger as he leads the offense into the next phase of its existence, as they have brought in a new tight end to start, and one that will add a new dimension to the system that the Steelers, perhaps, have never had throughout their history at the position.
Signing former Chargers tight end Ladarius Green to a new four-year, $20 million contract, Pittsburgh is bringing aboard a tight end who is primarily a pass catcher, and who possesses elite physical traits for the position, standing at 6’6” and weighing around 250 pounds, as he told reporters after signing. That is not to mention his elite positional speed, timed with a 4.53-second 40-yard dash during the Combine in 2012.
Green, who will turn 26 later this month, will be looking to come Roethlisberger’s next security blanket, as the quarterback described Miller. He said of his new tight end, “I know some guys for the Chargers that have told me that he’s a really good player and a guy that has more speed at tight end than I’ve ever seen”.
Having said that the two have communicated, Roethlisberger said that he is excited “because I know he’s excited to help us”, adding that “he wants to win and wants to win now”. And that’s all you can ask for of a new piece of the puzzle. Green will help ease the transition, both for Roethlisberger and for the offense as a whole, and once they have things sorted out, he will add a dimension that they have not yet experienced at the position.