The season was 2004.The Pittsburgh Steelers had just completed the franchises best regular season record ,going 15-1 and making it to the AFC Championship round. However,they would come up short,losing to the New England Patriots 27-41.
The 2004 season was a good one. The Steelers had finally found a franchise quarterback in NFL rookie of the year Ben Roethlisberger and the team consisted of 9 Pro Bowl players , yet there still seemed to be something missing.
The 2005 NFL draft was now approaching and the Steelers owned the 30th pick in the first round and with that pick they chose tight end Heath Miller out of Virginia. As fate would have it,Miller would fall into the Steelers hands after not being able to participate at the NFL combine because he was recovering from a sports hernia operation.
The pick of Heath Miller was just what the Steelers needed to take that next step and Miller would become a key staple in the Steelers offense and Roethlisberger’s main go to guy for years to come.
Heath Miller would make his presence known from the very beginning. During his rookie season Miller would catch 39 catches for 459 yards and 6 touchdowns. He would also play a key role in the Steelers playoff run that season, catching 3 passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers upset victory over the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts.
The Steelers would go on to win Super Bowl XL and finally get that one for the thumb.
Miller was named the Steelers rookie of the year for 2005 receiving the Joe Greene Great Performance Award .
This was just be the beginning for Heath Miller. Miller would go on to have a stellar Steeler career,playing 11 seasons and becoming the Steelers all-time leading tight end with 592 receptions,6569 receiving yards and 45 receiving touchdowns.
He was voted to 2 Pro Bowls (2009 and 2012)and won 2 Super bowl Championships (XL and XLIII) and played in 3 Super Bowls. Miller was also named the Steelers team MVP in 2012.
Miller’s 592 receptions are the 6th most by a tight end in NFL history at the time of his retirement.
However, Miller’s specialty was not limited to his reliable hands as he was also a great run blocker often throwing a key block to spring a big run .
Miller may be the most underrated player of his era at the tight end position and most certainly the most complete .
Miller could do it all and did it all in a business like fashion on and off the field. He was the ultimate professional.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke upon Miller’s retirement to Steelers.com …
Ben Roethlisberger: “To put together a statement is hard because where do you start with Heath Miller?For someone like me that has been blessed to play with someone like him, not just from a physical standpoint of how great of a football player he was, but the type of person he was, the type of teammate he was. Probably hands down the best teammate I have been a part of.”
“It’s hard to talk about Heath, and I said this talking to him, it’s hard to do it without getting emotional. That’s how much he has meant to me as a football player, teammate and friend. I have been so lucky and blessed to have Heath around my whole career, 11 years.”
“To have someone like him on my side has truly been a blessing.From his play and beyond. In an era when the tight end has gone by the wayside in a way, from when he was getting in the league and as he has progressed in the league the tight end has turned into a receiving tight end. They don’t ask tight ends to block anymore and do the things we asked him to do. He easily has the best hands I have been around. He gets open, he wins his matchups. He will do the blocking. He takes pride in blocking. He takes pride in the run game being an extra lineman. When a goal line situation presents itself, and it’s a running situation, he is not coming out because he likes to block. He takes pride in that. A person that takes pride in every aspect of his job makes him special.”
“When it comes to the locker room, when he speaks, you listen,“He didn’t do it a lot, but when he did everyone listened. Just a guy that always put the team and everyone else ahead of himself. The aspect of his game and persona, everything he did. He was always in meetings early. He was the guy you could count on to do the right thing every time.
“I learned every day from Heath Miller. In a day in sports where there are a lot of selfish people, he is one of the most selfless people and that will be truly missed. “We are honored to have the chance to play with him, and we will miss him.”
It’s now 2016 and the NFL is about to have its draft at month’s end. The tight end position has changed as the emphasis on pass catching and flash is the trend of the day.The Steelers begin a new chapter without Heath Miller but make no mistake, he may be gone but never forgotten.
Heath Miller personified in every way what a Pittsburgh Steeler should be and was the last of the NFL’s complete tight ends.
Thank you, Heath Miller as Steeler Nation cries out one last “HEEEATH”!!!