This is the first in a three-part series examining three key Pittsburgh Steelers who have at least 10 years of NFL experience (excluding Ben Roethlisberger). The Steelers have injected youth into the roster but still need these three aging veterans to produce.
Name: Heath Miller
Position: Tight end
Experience: 10 NFL seasons
Why the Steelers still need him: He’s still a top-10 producer at his position (66 catches ranked seventh among tight ends in 2014). He has a long-standing rapport with Roethlisberger. Todd Haley’s quick-passing offense suits him well. He’s been in the system for four years and knows the nuances of it. Haley values tight ends, largely for blocking, but he will feed them, too. Miller’s game is about precision more than raw athleticism, which helps prolong his career. Watching Miller live, it’s obvious his hands are still solid, his positioning is good and his ability isn’t deteriorating at an alarming rate. He’s two years removed from an 818-yard, eight-touchdown season.
Why the Steelers can question how much he has left: He’s a No. 3 or 4 option for the offense but nothing more. He might’ve been a 1,000-yard receiver as a 25-year-old in Haley’s offense. But you could argue he’s lost his fastball a bit -- or at least CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco makes that argument, saying “age is catching up” to Miller, who’s not the same player from 2012. Miller’s scoring rate is concerning. After 27 touchdowns in his first five years, Miller has 16 in his last five, for an average of 3.2 per year. He surpassed three scores in one of those five seasons. The Steelers placed a waiver claim for tight end Tim Wright, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. When coupled with reported interest in second-round tight end Maxx Williams during the draft, the Wright claim indicates the franchise is at least exploring tight end alternatives.
Final word: Miller isn’t an elite tight end but he’s still very solid. He can put up 600 yards in this offense at age 32. And the truth is the Steelers still need him. He’s a safety valve for Roethlisberger. Don’t count on a high fantasy value -- Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant will monopolize the red zone touches but he’ll convert enough third downs to make the Steelers happy.