It was announced on Monday by Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin that veteran tight end Heath Miller would miss the season finale against the Cleveland Browns because of the serious knee injury that he suffered Sunday in the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. That news now means that rookie David Paulson will most likely be called upon to fill his shoes.
Paulson, one the Steelers four seventh round draft picks this past April, enters the game Sunday against the Browns with just 7 receptions on the season for 51 yards. He has played just over 260 snaps on offense this season in the Steelers two and three tight end personnel groupings, but hasn\’t been overly impressive when it comes to the run blocking portion of his game. That isn\’t too surprising, however, being as he wasn\’t asked to do too much in-line blocking while at Oregon.
With Miller likely to be sidelined until the team reports to training camp next year, it is very important that the Steelers coaching staff gets a good luck at Paulson on Sunday. If after the season they deem him to be a career backup tight end they will most likely have to look to the draft in April again to find one they can begin to groom as an heir apparent to Miller, who will be entering his ninth season next year and coming off the first serious injury of his career.
Paulson was an all-Pacific-12 Conference second team selection in his final season with the Ducks where he caught 67 passes for 1,041 yards and 10 touchdowns in 40 career games. 31 of those catches came in his senior season and his poor showing at the NFL combine back in February resulted in him being a final round prospect.
The game Sunday against the Browns might be a meaningless one for the Steelers as far as needing a win to make the playoffs, but it will be a meaningful one for Paulson, and several other young Steelers players at the bottom of the roster.