Steelers Tight End Heath Miller Retires From NFL
The retirement bug continues to make it’s way around the NFL. Just days after defensive end Jared Allen called it a career, Pittsburgh Steelers star tight end Heath Miller joins the long line of popular NFL players that are riding off into the sunset still in their prime.
#Steelers TE Heath Miller announced his retirement.
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) February 19, 2016
Patrick Willis did it last year and the league has since seen Allen, Jared Mayo, Calvin Johnson and others hang up their cleats, arguably before they had even exited their primes.
Miller fits the bill, as he still looked the part of a quality two-way tight end in 2015, hauling in 60 passes for 535 yards and two scores. Miller continued his stellar Steelers career by providing the offense with a reliable chain-mover through the air, and also assisting the run game with his elite blocking ability.
While Miller’s departure from the game is a tad early, he is still 33 years old and may have calculated all the hits he’s taken and the grind of a 16-game season and decided he’d had enough. Miller did not formally issue a reason for his retirement, but one can only imagine the mental and physical wear and tear on a player’s body – especially one that is in the trenches and doing the dirty work as often as Miller was.
End of an Era
Miller certainly wasn’t always the most athletic or explosive tight end, but few were as reliable. Miller made his presence known with six touchdowns right away as a rookie back in 2005 and eventually built up a terrific chemistry with Steelers starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger and Miller connected for a career high 76 receptions back in 2009, as well as a career high 8 touchdowns for Miller in 2012. The Steelers always leaned on more explosive receivers on the outside and loved their “smash mouth” running game, but Miller’s ability to get the tough yards and help in run-blocking made a lot of their offensive success possible.
Miller retires with three Super Bowl appearances under his belt, along with two rings.
This isn’t a loss that will necessarily cripple the Steelers, but Miller was a very reliable target over the middle of the field and was about as clutch as they come when Pittsburgh badly needed a first down or big catch late in the game. He wasn’t always able to display his red-zone ability, but when called upon, he was rather adept at securing the ball in traffic and finding a way to score.
Pittsburgh does have a plan in place with Jesse James ready to step up as the team’s top tight end, but they will probably want to add another body to compete for the top spot. Drafting more talent at the position is one thought, while adding a capable veteran such as Dwayne Allen in free agency could also be in order. Allen could arguably be the perfect transition player, as he’s built like and plays like Miller did.
It’s the end of an era and there will be a mild transition for Big Ben and co. considering the quarterback will miss one of his most reliable targets, but the time seems right for Miller. He’ll likely be retired into the Steelers’ ring of honor down the road, but the Steelers shouldn’t take too big of a hit to next year’s playoff chances with this surprise retirement.
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