Heath Miller Should Have A Big Season In 2012

By Cian Fahey

ESPN AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley recently ranked Heath Miller as the third best tight end in the division. Hensley\’s argument was essentially based on production as a receiver. He, correctly, points out that Miller hasn\’t been an overwhelmingly good receiving tight end from a statistical perspective.

You think Miller cares? I doubt it.

While Miller won\’t care, I do. I can buy an argument that Jermaine Gresham is as good as, or even slightly better than Miler, but there is no chance that Ed Dickson is even near his level. Regardless of all that, Miller should prove statistic freaks like Hensley wrong this year.

The first thing you have to do with Miller is provide some context.

In the past two seasons, Miller has 93 receptions for just over 1,000 yards and four touchdowns. That is pretty average production for a tight end. There is good reason for that however. In the past two seasons, particularly last year, the Steelers\’ wide receivers stepped up and the offense looked to them as more explosive threats.

Miller spent a lot more time blocking in the passing game, at times even lining up in the backfield, opposed to running routes for Ben Roethlisberger. That should not happen too often this year for a number of reasons.

Obviously with their off-season investment in the offensive line, there will be less reason to ask Miller to stay in as a blocker in passing situations. If, as one would presume, Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert are the team\’s starting tackles, the Steelers won\’t need Miller to line up in the backfield.

Gilbert and Adams will need help, but that help should come from Miller, or a running back, chipping rushers at the line of scrimmage. With Willie Colon inside also, Miller shouldn\’t have to protect the A or B gaps even without Mewelde Moore\’s presence in pass protection.

With Miller free more from pass protection responsibilities, his role as a receiver should increase.

Hines Ward\’s involvement in the offense may have diminished before he retired this off-season, but he remained Roethlisberger\’s most trusted target until his very last snap. Miller will take up that mantle now. He has proven in the past that he can be a possession receiver and has made plenty of clutch third down receptions over the years.

Miller is Roethlisberger\’s longest serving teammate on the offensive side of the football, unless you consider Trai Essex who hasn\’t always been under contract. While Jerricho Cotchery is a veteran with even more NFL seasons on his resume, Cotchery hasn\’t got the same experience with Roethlisberger.

For all the talent that Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace have, none of them will inspire confidence in Roethlisberger as much as Miller will in tense situations. Ward\’s receptions, not just his clutch receptions, will need to be spread out.

Miller should get a lot of those receptions, so maybe Hensley will actually talk some sense next year, even if he does so unknowingly.

You can follow Cian on Twitter at @Cianaf

  • Bobby Bowers

    on paper “we” as Steelers are loaded with many dependable weapons PLUS newly added studs in the OL. I hope this translates to 2 more wins –

  • callous

    Hard to take a guy that wrote for the Baltimore Sun for near a decade seriously when it comes to an objective opinion. The facts are Miller is every bit the receiver Dickson is and maybe despite less speed better. He has better hands and runs sharper routes. What isnt up for debate is Dickson couldnt Alonzo Jackson with concrete shoes on. PFF had Miller ranked 5th among all Tight Ends. Dickson was ranked in the 30s…Gresham 29th.

  • Jprankster2005

    I agree, I think Miller is overpaid……. I believe he actually has one of the top contracts for a TE but I believe if they needed 700 to 800 yds. from him a yr. he would give it to them……. And I do believe his stats will be alot better with this offense……

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    Miller is easily the best TE in the division, since the other two are not as good at blocking. Dickson isn’t as good period, but they use him more in that offense. Heath is one of the most underrated TEs in the game, and one of the few that can do everything well.

    Between the new offense, the departure of Ward, and the improved OL, I agree that we should see big things from Miller this year.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    Baltimore bias aside, Hensley isn’t a depth guy. He never goes beneath the surface (read relies on fantasy stats mostly) and doesn’t depart from the ESPN party line much. I don’t expect him to look into things like blocking, overall impact on the offense, or even more complex receiving stats like first down breakdowns.

  • SteelersDepot

    overpaid? do you sit around all day trying to think this crazy stuff up?

  • SteelersDepot

    To put it more exact, Hensley is the worst NFL blogger ESPN has. He trolls team blogs constantly and does not attribute. Very thin analysis and an embarrassment even for ESPN.

  • dgh57

    YOU BET MILLER WILL HAVE A GREAT SEASON!!!

    Once I heard Arians was not coming back and then the hiring of Haley along with this past draft I knew Heath Miller will start putting up big numbers starting this season!! Maybe some Pro Bowls as icing on the cake!!!

    Can’t wait till this season starts!!

    GO STEELERS!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • SteelSpine

    Isn’t “Heath Miller should have a bigger year in receptions this coming season” the same arguments which could have been said in years past & probly was said each offseason? I don’t see any reason Miller would have more receptions this year than last year.

    Your case is based on:
    – Hines Ward is gone. But last year Hines didnt take away any measurable number of catches of Miller, Ward was a backup most of last year.
    – Regarding Miller being more reliable than our receivers: But all our young quality receivers are more experienced than they were last year. And Miller’s hands werent as reliable last year as they were previously. So in the recieving department, Miller is on the way down & our recievers are on the way up.
    – Re our OTackles better this year than last year so Miller wont need to block as much: We have no earthly idea yet. We can guess Essex & Adams will be better blockers this year than JScott, but would you bet on that yet, there no basis to predict that.

    If anything it’d be easier to make the opposite case which is Miller likely to have less receptions this year. Look at all the reasons:
    – We spent a draft pick on Rainey who’s size is more likely to catch outta backfield than to run from backfield.
    – Our promising 3rd-down specialist Barron Batch was injured all of last year.
    – Miller is older now. Remember Hines’ number of catches diminished when got old.
    – On 3rd down now I would be just as likely to look Emmanuel Sanders way as Miller.
    – Regarding any downs which you’re gonna throw: When you have the deepest corps of WRs in the NFL, why wouldnt you take advantage of that now. Take adantage of that excellent depth of WR while you have it.

  • Intropy

    I dunno, I think third seems fair. Gronkowski is the clear #1. After him, who’s next? Keller, Lewis, Miller, and the other Miller each seem reasonable so anywhere from #2 to #5 sounds right to me. On the NFC side you have Witten, Pettigrew, and Davis.

    “But what about Gonzalez and Gates?” the masses ask. “Oh, I thought we were talking about tight ends not slot wide receivers.”

  • Jprankster2005

    He said in our division. those guys aren’t in our divison….. He’s ranked third out of the 4 teams….. cleveland,cinnci, and baltimore….

  • Jprankster2005

    With all those things u said about predicting…… How do u predict Rainey to even make the team? As well as getting in plays? And Batch making the team and the young recivers following up on a better or same yr. as last….. You never know what’s going to happen…. I believe Rainey will make the team and get plays as well as Batch making the team and the recivers having atleast close to the same season….. But u are the one saying you can’t predict and you did…….Miller is the most realiable because he’s been there with ben the whole time is what he’s saying…..

  • Jprankster2005

    You don’t think Miller is overpaid…… And no I don’t think crazy stuff up…… I just think he got a pretty big contract…… I love Miller…… Wouldn’t trade him for anyone…. I just think he makes a little to much……

  • Callouswhisper

    I take a bet a parking cone would be a better blocker than Jonathan Scott.

  • Callouswhisper

    3rd was in the AFC North division not entire AFC.

  • Rbvanburen

    Hensley said third best in the division, not in the conference.

  • Intropy

    Yeah I noticed that after posting. Hensley is out of his mind.

  • Jprankster2005

    Defenitely….. Out of his mind…… I could do a better job…… Dude has no clue….. All he looks at is yds. catches and td’s doesn’t look at the little things……

  • Jprankster2005

    Lol I can’t believe he’s still on the team……. And if they do plan on keeping him I sure the hell they make him take a cut to the min. he isn’t worth that in my mind let alone the 2.2 million…..

  • kevin

    I agree. He also runs with rumors and beats those rumors to death even after teams/sources deny the rumors.

  • Jimmy

    I have no predictions just prayer. Staying healthy is the biggest enemy for this Steeler Team. For as long as I can remember, Someone starting or predicted to start at the start of the season or in camp has gone down. Steeler Nation just pray we have healthy OTA’s and Camp! Max.Mendy,Batch, and Big Snacks get and stay healthy. AMEN!

  • Jimmy

    Before, I see Heath having a great season, I think Saunders after his suspension could blow up. He is underrated. His Great hands,speed & blocking ability will be recognized this year. This is a Young guy from the SEC who has something to prove!

  • SteelerDave

    Agreed

  • Intropy

    He’ll probably rank Andrew Whitworth as the top offensive tackle in the division because of that one receiving touchdown a year and a half ago.

  • LucasY59

    He’s not overpaid just underused at least as far as pass receptions and recieving yards show, but like the article said, its because the Steelers had to use him to block and IMO he’s earned his $ by being one of the best in that catagory. Miller’s not going to give your team a win in fantasy football every week, but like the Steelers W/L records show, he’ll help the team win the game that actually matters.

  • LucasY59

    Hopefully he will have a great season this year, but still dont think he is as good as Miller, maybe with another year or two he will be.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    There is that, but I thought in at least some ways he was an improvement over what James Walker was putting out before he moved. I haven’t seen what he’s done in the AFCE to compare.