Steelers Ignoring Tight Position In Draft Might Mean Heath Miller Is On Schedule

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected nine players in the 2013 NFL draft and signed 15 more as undrafted free agents immediately after it concluded, and of those 24 total players, not a one of them plays tight end.

Judging by the Steelers decision to not add to the position group over the course of the weekend, one can easily speculate that this bodes well for veteran tight end Heath Miller, who pulled off the torn ligament trifecta late last season in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Many had speculated that the Steelers would add a tight end at some point during the draft and some of that speculation even included the selection of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round. The Steelers, as you can obviously see, thought otherwise on both accounts.

As I pointed out in a previous post, it is not out of the question that Miller could possibly be ready to play come Week 1 of the 2013 season, but with him currently being only four months removed right now from surgery, that is far from a lock at this point.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a guest on 93.7 The Fan less than two weeks ago and was asked if he had seen his tight end recently, and more importantly, does he expect him to make a full recovery.

“I do,” said Roethlisberger. “I saw Heath this week. I was walking in the facility and I was walking down the hallway, and he was walking towards me, and I forgot that he had surgery. Literally, you see him and I forgot. After talking for a while I said, \’Oh yeah, how you doing? I forgot to even check on how you\’re doing.\’ I don\’t want to jinx it, but if anybody can come back, it\’s Heath Miller, because he just works so hard at his body, his focus, his determination and this is just going to push him even more.

“My biggest thing, and I told Heath this, \’Don\’t push it too much.\’ I know that sounds crazy, and people out there probably don\’t want to hear that, but really, \’You don\’t have to come back at training camp if you\’re not 100 percent ready to go. We don\’t need you for the preseason games. Come back when you\’re ready to come back and you\’re 100 percent, because we need you, because you\’re a good player.\'”

Despite the observations that Dr. Roethlisberger made, he\’s right about Miller. If anyone can be ready by the start of the season after such a devastating injury, it\’s him.

General manager Kevin Colbert offered no real updates on Miller during his pre draft press conference and that in itself is not too surprising as he likely didn\’t want to tip his draft hand. Colbert  did, however, say that he thought the team was fine at the position after signing back tight ends Matt Spaeth and David Johnson during the offseason and referred to those signings as “insulating” the position.

The Steelers didn\’t totally ignore the tight end position completely, even before signing Spaeth and Johnson, as they also signed tights ends Jamie McCoy and Zack Pianalto to futures contracts not long after last season ended. In addition to that, they have invited Youngstown State tight end Will Davis in for a tryout next weekend at the rookie camp.

As we sit here right now, everybody expecting Miller to start training camp off on the Active PUP list. Immediately after the team reports to Latrobe we should have a better idea if Miller has a chance to be ready for Week 1. At worst, he will start the season on the Reserve PUP list and be eligible to return after the first six weeks.

Me? I bet he starts the season on the active 53 man roster and is ready to play by Week 3 at the latest.

  • NW86

    Yep, I was thinking this myself as Saturday wound down with no TE’s being drafted. There are of course no guarantees, but I’d say his chances of playing week 1 are pretty decent. I could envision something like what they did with Hampton and Worilds last year – keeping them on PUP through training camp, then activating him around the last preseason game, and rotating him in slowly the first couple weeks of the regular season.

  • SteelSpine

    Good point, good stuff. I wonder tho IF Jarvis had been snatched right-before Steelers turn, then how close Colbert & Co were to in-that-case trade down, to draft Eifert, the idea being in-case Eifert gets snatched after we trade down, then settle for the fine backup plan to Eifert which is Ertz. I think Jarvis was the last available of the Steeler prospects at #17, but Eiefert being close, IF Jarvis gone that would’ve had ripple effect for Steelers’ entire draft, including if no one then wanted to trade up to Steelers, then mightta even taken Eifert at 17. We’ll never know if Colbert & Co had that in their playbook (unless someone asks Colbert).

  • LucasY59

    Colbert still wouldn’t give an answer he would just dodge the question and say “fortunately we got the player we wanted at 17 and didn’t need to think about picking anyone other than Jarvis Jones” or something like that. also if Jones had been selected earlier and they did take Eifert, Colbert would never admit they would’ve rather had Jones, he would say “we got a player we valued at the 17 position and we are happy he was available when we picked”

  • Saw him in one of the photos posted on the steelers website working on step exercises last week and it appeared he was not wearing a brace. If anybody has the tenacity and work ethic to make it back to full strength, it is Heath Miller for sure. Hands down he is this Fan’s favorite Steeler!

  • LucasY59

    I think with Jones available at 17 they had to take him (seems no one was interested in giving up a bunch of picks to trade with the Steelers to get him) taking Eifert with Jones still available would almost be as bad as the Dolphins trading up to get Dion Jordan, or the Browns taking Mingo with the 5th. Jones led the NCAA in SACKS last season 14.5 vs 5 or less for Jordan and Mingo. Hopefully Heath proves that the front office made the right choice, otherwise the Bengals will remind them twice a year that they had a chance to draft Eifert. (Jarvis could also remind them how glad they are that they picked him, if he can continue getting 14 or so sacks)

  • SteelSpine

    Hah, so right you are!
    This reminds me, then after making 2nd round picks the GMs always say about their 2nd pick “We considered taking him with our 1st-round pick, so we were shocked he was still available in 2nd round.” Hah!

  • …..Dr. Roethlisberger hahahahaha!! Almost skipped right over that! HA

  • LucasY59

    I think TE, ILB, DE, and WR, possibly CB and S will be the biggest needs in next years draft. Next years free agency, offseason cuts, resructures, and extensions could change the needs, but if you base the needs on the draft picks this year, the expiring contracts, and ages of players on the roster I would be surprised if TE was ignored for a Second year in a row (almost more than that since Paulsen in the 7th is almost the same as ignoring the position, luckily he played well and will help if Miller isn’t 100% when the season starts)

  • LucasY59

    I was surprised there were no UDFA TE’s signed (especially with no TE’s drafted) A couple of guys that would’ve been worth bringing in IMO are: Joseph Fauria, Zach Sudfield, Lucas Reed, Ryan Otten or Jake Stoneburner

    I guess bringing back Spaeth and D. Johnson coming back from injury was enough insurance if Miller isn’t ready to go at the start of the season.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I really like Ryan Otten’s chances of being a good player in the NFL and was hoping for him the last 3 picks. The guys tough, instinctive, and has hands.

    Get well Heath!!

  • David Edward

    I think not drafting a TE speaks volumes about Paulsen’s ability as a receiving TE in their eyes. By the second half of last year he passed Pope on the depth chart as a rookie. I think they have confidence that Paulsen can move the chains if Heath has to miss time. Spaeth can handle the blocking. Johnson was always more of a FB but he brings some experience as an inline TE too. Eifert was hard to pass up, and I like him better than Jones but I think their confidence that Paulsen/Spaeth could get them by if need be led them to not feel the need to draft a TE.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Dave, I know we disagree on this TE issue but there is a very important piece of evidence you’re leaving out. Gary Dulac reported that Eifert was one of the 8 “special” players on the Steelers board. If that is true (and the Jets draft Jarvis at 1.13 like they probably should have) Tyler Eifert is a Steeler.

    It’s not a question of how fast Heath was healing or current roster depth. Eifert was Colbert’s BPA. He would’ve been the pick. Then we’re having a whole different conversation right now.

  • Nolrog

    It’s hard to say right now, because injuries play such a big part. But from what we know (or believe) right now, I think that’s a reasonable list. DE, ugh. We drafted 2 first round DEs and it’s still a need. That’s some bad drafting.

  • Stephen Dale

    I think the Steelers took a major risk–and made a major mistake–
    by not drafting Eifert or Ertz to fortify the TE position. Nobody knows how long Heath’s damaged knee will hold up after he returns to action. None of the other TE’s on the roster are NFL-quality. The Steelers would have solved some of its offensive problems with a 2nd high quality TE and stayed away from the medical risk that is Jarvis Jones……

  • NW86

    Actually I think Heyward will be fine when he finally gets the chance to play at DE. Ziggy hasn’t really panned out, but even if he plays well this year and gets a new contract, they’ll still need depth.

  • Everything Steelers

    We had Heath at an autograph event in Pittsburgh over 1 month ago…stood for 2 hours…i know thats not running…but he had no brace, no crutches…i was surprised…nice guy..i bet he is ready

  • Fine at tight end with Spaeth and Johnson LOL.

  • dgh57

    Thank you, that is encouraging to know!

  • TsarPepe

    You can’t have first-rounders at every position. Going with Paulson and Spaeth, while waiting on Heath, is not the end of the world. It is much worse if either Worilds or Woodley underperform. That’s the heart and soul of the Steelers team, and I applaud them for going and getting a blue chip player to replace Harrison. Also: in today’s NFL you can live without a top-tier TE (see SB champions, Ravens, Giants), but without a pass rush you’re cooked.

  • steeltown

    I dont think it has much to do with his recovery… Colbert said, we addressed TE (signing Speath and D.Johnson) so that the need was no longer there. Basically saying they were not going to reach for TE just because Miller is still recovering. There were really only 4-5 TE’s that I would want to spend a draft pick on anyway (Eifert, Ertz who went early, then Escobar, Kelce and McDonald)

    Im not saying that either of the aformentioned players (Spaeth, Johnson) could ever replace Miller, but it fills out the depth chart. We have Paulson, Will Johnson, and Le’veon Bell that can all break off and pass catch and Spaeth will help in the blocking game. Its not the ideal situation, but I think there are enough options till Miller returns.. hopefully that is sooner than later

    Im sure if Paulson fails to improve in his 2nd season, they’ll be drafting TE next year

  • LucasY59

    I agree Heyward will hopefully be a very good DE. He has shown some good things when he gets on the field, its just that Keisel has been starting ahead of him. I would not be surprised at all if Heyward and Keisel are the starting DE’s and Hood is the rotational guy like Heyward was last year (unless Hood’s play finally improves)

  • LucasY59

    not totally bad drafting (1/2 bad at the worst) Heyward should finally get some playing time this year and I think he will show that he was worth the draft pick. Hood hasn’t been as good as hoped but has been the starter for most of the time he has been on the team (either filling in when A.Smith was hurt or the full time starter last year) so being a starter 3 out of 4 years can’t be that that bad (no one else beat him out for the starting spot and he wasn’t sitting on the bench or more importantly IR) so Hood has been disappointing, but I can’t call him bad.

    The reason DE will most likely be a big need next year is that 3 of the 4 DE’s from last (and this) years roster will have their contracts expire at the end of the season. Keisel may get another 1-2 year contract (as long as his production doesn’t decrease) Hood will either have a good year (which might make him too expensive to re-sign) a bad year (they won’t want to re-sign him) or another barely average year (where they might re-sign him for depth but will want to bring in someone who could be better) Woods will be gone unless he (out of nowhere) wins a starting spot or gets a lot of plays as a rotational player (he hasn’t done it yet so dont think it will happen) If one of the rookie DE’s really impresses then there is still need for at least one more DE next year at a minimum