It was hard for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans to watch Heath Miller walk away from the game. Seeing the tight ends that have come in to try to replace him during the two years in which he has been gone hasn’t made it any easier, though there is some hope for this season with Vance McDonald getting in a full offseason.
As it turns out, retirement hasn’t been any easier for Miller, he’s found, than it has been for the Steelers to adequately replace him on the field. Teresa Varley recently caught up with the former tight end when he was in down for Mel Blount’s charity event, which included the ‘roasting’ of Brett Keisel.
“It’s a hard adjustment”, he told Varley about retirement from football for the Steelers’ website in a video recently published. “I don’t think you can ever really prepare yourself for it. It’s something that has been our passion since we were little kids, and to just leave and move on is difficult. But it’s something we will all have to do sooner or later”.
Miller was a first-round draft pick of the Steelers in 2005, and he spent the next 11 years playing for the team, making a couple of Pro Bowls along the way. He was one of the few tight ends in the league capable of performing all functions of the position at a high level, and as a result he was perennially among the league leaders in snap counts, rarely coming off the field.
He was an immediate rookie contributor, starting 15 of 16 games in 2005, as the Steelers marched on to their first Super Bowl since the 1970s dynasty. He would go on to catch 825 passes during the regular season in his 11 years, picking up 6569 yards and 45 touchdowns.
The truth of the matter is that he would have put up even bigger numbers if the Steelers had a better offensive lien through most of his tenure. He was frequently asked to stay in as an extra pass protector over the course of his career, which is an assignment that McDonald and Jesse James are rarely asked to do today, in large part because of the quality of the linemen they now have.
Despite all of his significant contributions to the Steelers on and off the field over the years, he admitted that he hasn’t spent much time following them since he retired—not because he isn’t interest in how they’re doing, but because it’s been difficult to separate himself from the team. He did say that it’s getting easier to watch as time goes on.
“You miss the relationships”, he said. “You try to keep in touch with as many people as you can. Lives are busy and we don’t get to see each other every day like we used to. We were spoiled in that regard”.
At the time that he retired, Miller was among the last of a small group of players who were a part of both of the Steelers’ recent Super Bowl victories. Now Ben Roethlisberger is the only one not just who remains on the team, but who is still an active player in the NFL.