“I will always cherish and value the special bonds that I formed with my teammates. It was truly an honor for me to take the field with them,” Miller said. “I am also appreciative of my entire family and all of the coaches who helped me along the way. Additionally, I want to thank Steelers Nation, the best fans in the NFL!” – Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers TE 2005-2015.
Video from Steelers YouTube channel.
There was no farewell tour, or a press conference to announce his retirement, just a simple statement thanking his teammates and the fans. Heath Miller ended his career in the same fashion that he began it, quitely and in a humble fashion. The greatest tight end in Pittsburgh Steelers history has decided to call it a career after eleven consistent and dependable seasons, finishing second in team history with 592 receptions and fourth with 6,569 yards. His receptions rank 6th and 9th all-time among tight ends in NFL history, for receptions and yards, yet somehow, Heath Miller remains mostly under rated, and is usually left out of the discussion for being one of the best tight ends of his era. While he may not get the recognition reserved for the prolific pass catching tight ends like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, Miller’s teammates and Steelernation appreciate Miller as being the best all-around tight end of his era.
Coming out of Honaker High School in Swords Creek, Virginia, where he was an all-state quarterback and a first baseman on the baseball team, Miller was recruited to the University of Virginia to play quarterback. During his redshirt freshman season, in 2001, Miller converted to tight end, and in 2002, he started every game. He set a school record by scoring a touchdown in each of his first five games, and he never looked back. Heath finished his career at Virginia, setting ACC records for tight ends, with his receptions (144), yards (1,703), and touchdowns (20). He was also the first ACC tight end, ever, to win the John Mackey Award. All of Miller’s accomplishments in college, plus a 15 minute interview with him at the combine, was enough for the Steelers to make him the 30th pick in the 2005 NFL draft. It didn’t matter that Heath Miller didn’t work out at the NFL Scouting Combine, while recovering from a sports hernia surgery, or that the Steelers never put a stopwatch to him, because the Steelers knew a winner when they saw one.
Quiet greatness is how Heath Miller is defined both on and off the field. On the field, he was never great at just any one aspect of his position, rather he was the epitome of all-around excellence. His hands were always some of the most reliable in the league, as he consistently came up with the clutch reception. As a blocker, there was not a better blocking tight end in the NFL over the past eleven years. Four times, he was ranked as a top 5 tight end for run blocking. Heath truly was the total package, leading by example through hard work and preparation. Not only could he be counted on to make the play in crucial situations, he could also be counted on to show up and play. Over the course of his career, he never missed more than two games in any season, including the season, 2012, in which he tore his ACL. Miller’s 168 games played is a franchise record for tight ends. His greatness off the field comes from his tireless involvement in numerous charities, including the Salvation Army, the players fashion show, and hosting WTAE TV’s annual mini golf classic.
When people think of the Steelers, they usually think of the six Super Bowl championships they have won. When they think of those six titles, it’s usually Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, or even Santonio Holmes, who are thought of as being most responsible for bringing those Lombardi Trophies home. If it wasn’t for Heath Miller though, and his performance against the Colts in the 2005 AFC Divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers never would have made it to Detroit. During Super Bowl XL, it was Heath who threw one of the key blocks that sprung Willie Parker for his record breaking touchdown run against Seattle. Miller also had some big third down receptions in Super Bowl XLIII, to help quickly get the Steelers out in front of the Cardinals, on the way to the Steelers sixth title. Heath Miller may never get the national recognition that he’s earned and truly deserves, but Steelernation will always appreciate “Miller Time” for who he was and what he did. As great of a player as he was, he was an even better person.