I don’t imagine that anybody, other than perhaps opposing linebackers and safeties, is very excited to see what the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense looks without tight end Heath Miller for the first time since quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season in 2004. Many, no doubt, are excited to see what the offense looks like with free agent signing Ladarius Green, but nobody is looking forward to football life after Miller, who chose to retire earlier this offseason after 11 seasons.
Other than perhaps Roethlisberger, it’s hard to imagine that many will miss him more in the offense than offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who is entering his fifth season in that capacity with the Steelers, and the first without the Pro Bowl tight end, of whom he spoke very highly before ever coaching him for a down.
Speaking with the team’s website in an interview posted there yesterday, he talked about what having Miller as the offense’s security blanket for the past four seasons has meant to what they were able to do and what he was able to call. He said that it will be a strange sight to be there in training camp without having him there, a sentiment no doubt many reading can relate to.
“I don’t think it will really sink in until we are actually in pads or getting ready for a game because that’s how great his presence was in the locker room and around the building”, Haley said during the interview. He said that the team will “make little Heath comments when we are out on the field nowadays”, and that “someone will make a ‘Heeeeath’ call when someone catches the ball. We keep him in our mind all the time”.
During his introductory press conference in February of 2012, Haley was asked about his familiarity with the players that the Steelers already had on the offense, and the former Cardinals offensive coordinator and Chiefs head coach made clear that he is well aware of many of them.
But he reserved special remarks for Miller, who was coming off a couple of ‘down’ years in 2010 and 2011, combining for 93 receptions for 1143 yards and four touchdowns in 30 games. Haley described the veteran as “one of my favorite players that I’ve studied and prepared for”, which is certainly high praise combing from anybody who has spent a good deal of time studying tape of opposing players on a weekly basis.
Miller, a first-round draft pick in 2005, was a cornerstone of the team’s offense for 11 years and helped the Steelers reach three Super Bowls, winning two of them. a multiple-time Pro Bowler, his accolades do not need to be recited to the readers of this site, nor do they need the caveats explaining that he was not used as a glorified wide receiver as many other Pro Bowl tight ends of this era are.
Green has been more or less that sort of modern era tight end, and his installation as the team’s top tight end is a clear signal as the start of a new era in Pittsburgh, at least as far as the security blanket position is concerned. I don’t imagine we’ll see another Heath for some time, no matter how often his name might be called out after a reception.