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.

  • steeltown

    You’re probably right about that, while I wouldn’t be against drafting TE early or late, they could rehash the TE argument next offseason when Spaeth is a UFA

    I might be alone in this, but I’d rather have Palmer on roster than Paulson

  • DoctorNoah

    Ebron in the 1st round. Heath is locked up but on the wrong side of 30, injuries have plagued TE’s recently, and our offense, to be versatile, needs TE’s. There’s a reason that TE’s in our offenses have been more impressive than our 3rd receivers for years in terms of 3rd downs and receiving yards. Heath is not a TE you can split out wide. Ebron is. And Amaro, and a few others.

    We need a new receiving threat, and one that can block fills a lot of roles.
    Just saying. Just because we locked up Heath doesn’t mean we don’t need a TE. Spaeth is not a bad blocker but he’s just not impressive…

  • dgh57

    We didn’t draft a TE last year when Miller was rehabbing a knee so I don’t see why they would now. I also don’t see him being another year older as swaying their decision either as a extension would verify. But PLEASE can we at least draft someone to replace Paulson?!

  • Caesar

    We need a PLAYMAKER. Whether it is a TE or Wr doesn’t matter to me, just someone who can threaten a defense. Miller being extended shouldn’t mean anything in terms of getting a TE early if it is deemed that that is the best shot and getting that type of player.

  • Axe Skot

    I have been a proponent for drafting Ebron, but unless he really falls (like to the second round when the Steelers pick) I don’t think it is at all likely. Every year there are always head scratching picks in the top ten (not to mention QB’s and OT’s), which means that there is going to be someone at 15 who is going to be someone the Steelers rate very highly, maybe in their top 5. I would venture to guess that Ebron is not one of those top 5 “special” athletes.

  • I don’t disagree with the logic…in fact, I am on the same page as not getting a TE in the first 2-3rounds, but Ebron would play alot more than 200 snaps if we got him bc I don’t think they would draft him unless they planned to use him effectively whether it’s more double TE’s or him in the slot/out wide. Either way, I more or less totally agree with this article, but at the same time could not be disappointed if they drafted Ebron…although I would if he only played 200 snaps lol.
    CB or S
    in the first 3 rds…in no particular order. Although, that order would be nice, but no reaching.

  • srdan

    It’s hard for me to get excited about heath. Granted his knee slowed him down, but his blocking was suspect last year, really suspect. And we label him a red zone threat, but I don’t see it, at all. He does give 7 a lot of comfort, and for that I am thankful.

  • shawn

    I have a different point of view … I think it is highly likely that they draft a TE this year … we have passed on a quality one too many years in a row … there is every bit the chance they draft a TE high as a WR or DB …

    Not having a quality TE to step in for Heath was probably the single biggest reason we didnt make the playoffs last year … as they say fool me once ….

  • shawn

    Well said

  • cp72

    We may have that already with Johnson. If he can stay healthy and that’s a big if he is a more than adequate 3rd TE.

  • Rob

    I disagree. If they decide Ebron is the best player on the board, they are taking him regardless of need. The same goes for any position outside of QB. I love how these people think need triumphs talent

  • Rob

    Exactly, Ebron would play more than 200 snaps because of how they’d use him. Also, he’d play more than 200 snaps because he’d be the second tight end or 3rd wife receiver depending on the package and wouldn’t have to be as disciplined as a started or have as many responsibilities. Slot is one of the easiest positions for rookies…

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Agreed…Ebron could be sitting their at 1.15 but people would still want a Kyle Fuller instead because we need CB and Gilbert and Dennard are both gone.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I love Ebron and I wish he would fall to 15th. I also know they always say they will draft the BPA. If that’s the case why not him? I know that overall they will want to load up on Defense for the future, a future that’s fast approaching. However, they might pick him because I think he will be special. Ebron will be a matchup nightmare. He does make big circus-like catches. He is a good RZ target. We shall see.

  • Michael

    I’m glad Miller is still around and should be a few more years, but I still want to add another TE, but don’t see the need to go Rd 1 or even 2 to get a good one. I’d like to see either Niklas or Fiedorowicz. A couple others maybe Rodgers or Seferian-Jenkins.

  • steeltown

    Funny thing is Ian Crapoport reported they have “restructured” Miller’s contract… well, wrong again Ian, its the final year of his deal so it is either an actual reduction or (most likely) an extension.

  • Ahmad

    I don’t think this extension will stop them from drafting Ebron. You guys may have forgotten but I haven’t forgotten how pathetic the offense was without Heath Miller. You say Spaeth can fill in nicely if Miller gets hurt? I seem to remember him failing at that job during his first go in Pittsburgh and I see no reason to think differently. Paulson as we all know is no better than a parking cone at this point. We gambled on him compensating for Millers loss last year and how well did that work? Throw in the fact that Spaeth is a FA after 2014 and drafting Ebron makes a ton of sense.

  • Callentown

    It would be difficult to pass by Sef-Jenkins if he’s there in Rd 2.

  • steelster

    The bills or the giants will draft ebron. He won’t make it to the steelers.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The one thing that a guy like Ebron or Amaro makes is a large athletic target. Although I feel either of those guys that early is more of a luxury we do need a TE added to the roster and Miller will be gone in 2 years( or should be gone). A guy like Ebron would satisfy 2 needs: a large target for Ben in the red zone and filling the 3rd TE roster spot. Do I think we will draft a TE in the first? probably not but I would not be shocked if it happened nor dissappointed.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    This year will be more telling on Heath and now a year of play under his belt on the new knee but regardless his blocking was under par and he was slow. Once again we are in a spot where we have no choice this year and we cannot pay him what he is getting paid so we extend him. Sounds very familiar over these last several years. Lets get a good replacement in place this year.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    2 playmakers that should be available to us would be Lee of offense and Gilbert on defense/st.

  • Tom Jackson

    Is this deal gonna be announced soon for Miller?I’m starting to think NFL Network jumped the gun

  • Xclewsive

    The Steelers TE’s are trash and that was proven when Miller was out. Even if Spaeth was healthy the TE position was still substandard. The Steelers are out of pocket 16 TDs. There isn’t a TE on the roster outside of Miller getting over 2 TDs.

  • SFIC

    Weapons like Amaro and Ebron rarely come along and to let either pass would be a big mistake. IMO. To have Amaro/Ebron and Heath and Bell on the field at the same time would create nightmares for opposing DCs. They would need to keep 3 LBs on he field even in 3rd and long. Very few SSs would be able to match up against them. Putting one of them in motion could easily identify potential LB blitzes too. Regardless of need its a value that would be too good to pass on IMO

  • tim

    I WANT C.J. from IOWA OR the kid from Washington…..ether one of them plays ALOT in our system cuz they BOTH block and catch…!!!!

  • alex

    you are not alone

  • Thumper833

    I wonder that these boards have almost completely turned away from our need for an OT, and have mostly gravitated to talking about Offensive skill positions rather than Defense. I would argue that OT, DT and DB are all more pressing needs than TE or WR.