The tight end position in football has always been an important one that has undergone constant evolution, I think that’s well known. It’s easy to differentiate between an elite tight end and a terrible tight end. But, there’s a case to be made that some tight ends can fly under the radar, being elite, consistent, but not receiving national praise. To prove this point one needs to look no farther than the Pittsburgh Steelers and Heath Miller, as well as the team after Heath Miller.
Heath Miller played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2005, when he was drafted as the 30th overall pick, to 2015. During his time in Pittsburgh, Miller managed to get 2 Super Bowl rings on his fingers as well as 2 pro bowl invites. He finished his career to the tune of 592 receptions for 6,569 yards and 45 touchdowns. Miller was a very reliable target for Ben Roethlisberger throughout his career as well as an excellent blocker. Miller managed to earn team MVP honors in 2012 after leading the team with 71 receptions. He’s the all time franchise leader in every receiving stat among tight ends.
At the time of his retirement, among tight ends, Miller ranked second in career receptions, fourth in receiving yards as well as touchdowns, and sixth in scrimmage yards. In 2015 Miller recorded 500 receiving yards for the ninth straight season, at the time joining Hines Ward as they second ever Steeler to accomplish this feature. So Miller definitely qualifies as an elite tight end.
Heath Miller also has a very good relationship with his quarterback of 11 years, Ben Roethlisberger. Ben admitted to crying over Heath Miller’s retirement, as well as going on record later to say that Miller was “One of the best men I’ve ever known” according to Steelers Wire. Ben also asked Zach Gentry to change his number from his college number of 83, not wanting Gentry to wear Millers number.
How have the Steelers fared at the tight end position after Heath Miller? The list of tight ends to play after Miller include: Ladarius Green, who turned out to be possibly the worst free agent signing in Steelers history, Xavier Grimble who never saw meaningful time, Jesse James who had flashes but ultimately wasn’t a long term answer in Pittsburgh, Vance McDonald who has been injury prone to say the least, and adding to the list Eric Ebron. None of these tight ends have managed to make half the impact Miller did, even if we were to combine their efforts. The team hasn’t won a Super Bowl since Miller retired and hasn’t had consistency at the tight end position.
But while Miller has had an undeniable impact in Pittsburgh, and statistically was a top 10 tight end in NFL history, he’s never mentioned in the greatest tight end of all time debates, he didn’t receive as much national love as his positional peers, and he was only ever invited to two pro bowls. So I’m making the case that Heath Miller is among the most underrated tight end talents in NFL History.