A Heath Miller Extension Could Signal Steelers Lack Of Need To Draft TE Early
News surfaced on Monday that the Pittsburgh Steelers altered the contract of tight end Heath Miller in order to free up cap space for 2014. While we don’t the entire details associated with the altering, it more than likely was an extension being as Miller was about to enter the final year of his current contract.
So will this potential extension have any effect of the 2014 NFL Draft?
At 31 years of age, Miller likely expects to play at least two or three more years. While he certainly wasn’t the same player that he was in 2012 thanks to the knee injury he suffered late that season, he still managed to catch 58 passes for 593 yards in 14 games played. Now that he is a full year removed from his surgery, he ought to at least be able to equal his 2013 numbers in 2014.
While Miller will never be the blocker that he was several years ago, he’s still adequate in that department. In fact, former Steelers offensive coordinator and current Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians recently heaped praise on the veteran tight end.
“I still think Heath Miller’s the best tight end in the National Football League, not because he catches 90 passes, (but) because he blocks big defensive ends, and he catches about 60-70 passes,” Arians said during his session with the media at the 2014 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Sure, Arians might have hyperbolized a bit, but you can bet that he would attempt to sign Miller if he should somehow be thrown out onto the street by the Steelers and so would several other head coaches around the league.
In addition to Miller, the Steelers still have Matt Spaeth under contract for one more season as well. He was only able to play in four games late last season thanks to a Lisfranc injury suffered during training camp and while it wasn’t the 2012 version of Spaeth that blocked so well for the Chicago Bears, his play was above the line considering the time that he missed and the injury that he had to overcome.
As far as the Steelers potentially drafting a tight end in May goes, it’s not a necessity this year assuming that Miller’s been extended. Tight ends for the Steelers don’t really have to be groomed and both Miller and Spaeth are proof of that. Can the Steelers still draft one this year just the same? Absolutely, but other needs on both offense and defense make it unlikely they will select one in the first two or three rounds.
Sure, a doorstop has more talent right now than David Paulson does, but the Steelers will likely give him every opportunity this offseason to show that he can make it at the NFL level. If he can’t, another late round tight end could easily take his roster spot.
Even if the Steelers were to spend a first or second round draft pick this year on a tight end, how much do you think he would play during his rookie season? 200 snaps at most baring injuries?
I think Eric Ebron is a very talented young tight end, but at this point I would be surprised if the Steelers drafted him with the 15th overall selection come May as they’re likely far from being done with the tight end they drafted 30th overall way back in 2005.