60 Catches In 2014 Will Put Steelers TE Heath Miller In Some Elite Company

On Monday, Alex Kozora and I discussed the outlook for Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller for the upcoming season on the latest episode of The Terrible Podcast. Because of his age, Alex doesn’t believe that Miller, who will turn 32 in October, will catch more than 50 passes in 2014. I, on the other hand, believe that Miller should easily surpass that number as long as he stays healthy.

Our discussion, however, got me thinking about Miller’s age as it relates to history and the tight end position. I researched it and found out quickly that Miller will be in some pretty elite company should he indeed catch 60 or more passes in 2014.

As you can see in the table below, there have only been eight different tights ends that were 32 years of age or older that have caught 60 or more passes in a season dating back to 1966. Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez accomplished the feat six straight times while current Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe hit the 60 reception mark four straight years before calling it quits. Antonio Gates also caught more than 60 passes just last season at 33 years of age and many believe that he has a good chance at getting a bust in Canton down the road as well.

Miller, however, won’t be alone in trying to join the 32 and older, 60 plus catch tight end club in 2014 as Jason Witten hit the magic age number back in May. Barring an injury, he should easily eclipse the 60 catch number this upcoming season as he’s failed to hit that mark just once during his career and that was his rookie season.

I was able to track down the target numbers for all but one of the players listed in the table below so that you can see where Miller’s 71.4% career pass completion percentage ranks compared to the single seasons of the players listed. It’s an impressive number and Witten is right there with him (70.6%).

Miller has only cracked the 60 reception mark twice during his career and would have easily done it again last season had he not missed the first two games of the season. When you consider all of the variables listed in this post, however, you can see why Alex questions whether or not Miller will even catch more than 50 passes in 2014.

What say you? Will Miller catch at least 50 passes this season. What about 60 or more?

Tight Ends With 60 Or More Receptions At 32 Years Of Age Or Older (1966-2013)

Rk Player Year Age Tm G GS TGTS REC REC % YDS Y/R TD Y/G
1 Tony Gonzalez 2008 32 KAN 16 16 155 96 61.9% 1058 11.02 10 66.1
2 Tony Gonzalez 2012 36 ATL 16 16 124 93 75.0% 930 10 8 58.1
3 Tony Gonzalez 2013 37 ATL 16 16 121 83 68.6% 859 10.35 8 53.7
4 Tony Gonzalez 2009 33 ATL 16 16 135 83 61.5% 867 10.45 6 54.2
5 Tony Gonzalez 2011 35 ATL 16 16 116 80 69.0% 875 10.94 7 54.7
6 Antonio Gates 2013 33 SDG 16 15 113 77 68.1% 872 11.32 4 54.5
7 Shannon Sharpe 2001 33 BAL 16 15 114 73 64.0% 811 11.11 2 50.7
8 Tony Gonzalez 2010 34 ATL 16 16 109 70 64.2% 656 9.37 6 41
9 Mickey Shuler 1988 32 NYJ 15 15 N/A 70 N/A 805 11.5 5 53.7
10 Pete Metzelaars 1993 33 BUF 16 16 94 68 72.3% 609 8.96 4 38.1
11 Shannon Sharpe 2000 32 BAL 16 15 105 67 63.8% 810 12.09 5 50.6
12 Wesley Walls 1999 33 CAR 16 16 109 63 57.8% 822 13.05 12 51.4
13 Jay Novacek 1995 33 DAL 15 15 90 62 68.9% 705 11.37 5 47
14 Shannon Sharpe 2003 35 DEN 15 15 94 62 66.0% 770 12.42 8 51.3
15 Shannon Sharpe 2002 34 DEN 13 13 88 61 69.3% 686 11.25 3 52.8
16 Brent Jones 1995 32 SFO 16 16 101 60 59.4% 595 9.92 3 37.2
  • steeltown

    If he stays healthy, I see him getting around 60rec.

  • Jacque Strappe

    His value is immeasurable to this passing offense.

  • PA2AK

    Yes he’s getting older, but he works at keeping healthy like very few others do. I think with the emergence of an actual threat in Le-backfield…he could very well have a career season (we could actually use play action effectively!). AB will require absolute attention in a defensive game plan (5 for 50 every game at minimum is an issue for defenses). We’ll see how Wheaton, Moore, et. al. shape up this year. I think Heath seems more motivated than I can remember to do his part. Gotta watch out for the quiet ones…

  • dgh57

    Heath Miller will always be Big Ben’s go to guy as long as he’s around and healthy. If we get the run game reestablished like I think we will I think Ben will always be looking for a reliable set of hands to throw to. So I don’t see him having any problems getting at least 60 catches.

  • Lil Smitty

    If Heath wasn’t called on to block in blitzing situations, he would be able to get more catches. If the O-line can pick up the blitz better or have someone else block the free rusher, Heath’s catches could increase by two or three a game. Even with a good rushing attack, a team will face a third and ten once or twice a game. I would take Heath against a linebacker in the middle of the field to get a first down. I think Ben would too.

  • Big White

    Agreed,the ball is going to be spread around a little more this year but he definitely has a chance to break his TD mark of eight in 2012′.

  • I’m going to say 58 catches for 662 yards and 6 TDs.

    By the way, Dave, an interesting exercise for you and Alex (and for any of us readers/listeners) would be to predict how many passing plays the Steelers will have over the course of the season, then what Ben’s completion % will be, then what that means in terms of total completions and total yards, then how those are broken down among the various WRs, TEs, and RBs.

    Which is to say, I suppose, when it comes to Heath I think a lot depends on the development of the younger guys over the course of the season, specifically Wheaton and Bryant, as well as the extent to which Archer is used as more than a decoy and the extent to which Le’Veon continues to mature into a solid pass-catching RB.

  • Okay, 6 TDs may be a bit much. I’d say a range of 4-6. But, again, it depends on whether Bryant becomes a goal-line option, whether the RBs can punch it in, whether Spaeth poaches a few opportunities, etc.

    I guess a further question is: what would be the ideal totals for Heath? We want him to be a big part of the passing game, but we also don’t want him overused (given age/health) and we want the younger guys to have some opportunities as well.

  • SteveM2

    Instead of arbitrary goals, I want to see Heath Miller 100% healthy when we go deep into the playoffs this year.

  • NW86

    I think Heath will hit 60 catches if healthy. He will be a big part of the offense, especially early with question marks behind AB at WR. I think the numbers in your study say more about how the game, and the TE position has changed than they do about the production of TE’s after they hit 32. Notice that only 1 of the seasons on that list was before 1993, and that was 1988. Since the mid-90’s and especially 2000, those higher receiving numbers, especially for TE’s, have been much more common.

  • For me, as an all around TE and not just receiving, Heath is already in the elite category. 60 receptions is not out of the question. If he hauls in 60 or more, he would be making his way to the elite “receiving” TE category.

  • steelster

    Enjoy how he quietly goes about his job a true professional.

  • cp72

    I agree. LeVeon could easily catch 50 balls. I think the most important thing for Heath to do is become more of a threat in the red zone. Losing Cotchery and Sanders means 16 touchdowns walking out the door. We need 83 to pick up some of that slack.

  • steeltown

    I have no doubt his TD numbers will be better. In ’12 Sanders and Cotch accounted for a whopping 1 TD between the two of them, Miller racked up 8TDs that year. Division of labor.