Miller believes tight end position in good hands
For years, it was the one guarantee of every Steelers season: They would talk about throwing to the tight end but wouldn't do it.
They finally did so under offensive coordinator Todd Haley a year ago, when Heath Miller caught a team-high 71 passes — only the second time since 1966 a tight end topped the Steelers in receptions.
But with Miller out indefinitely following knee surgery — he was injured in December — the Steelers might go into the season without not only their top downfield threat from a season ago in Mike Wallace but also their most reliable receiver in Miller.
Surprisingly, Miller doesn't think there will be a drop-off with what he believes might be the Steelers' best group of tight ends since he was a first-round pick out of Virginia in 2005.
“We have a really good room, a lot of capable guys in there,” Miller said. “I think maybe one of the best top to bottom that I've been starting camp with. Hopefully we'll be able to keep everybody healthy, and I think everybody is capable of contributing and doing a good job.”
If Miller can't start the season — and that appears to be a strong possibility — the starting tight end is likely to be Matt Spaeth, who is renowned for his blocking but never has caught more than 17 passes in six seasons, four with the Steelers. He caught 13 passes for 78 yards and three touchdowns the past two seasons in Chicago, where he was frequently utilized in two tight end sets.
Spaeth insists he didn't sign a two-year, $2 million deal with the Steelers just because he knew Miller might not be ready to start the season.
“I came back here because I love this organization, I love this team, and I enjoyed it all four years I was here,” Spaeth said. “That's why I'm back.”
He understands he probably won't see the ball as much as Miller did even if he is the starter, and he is comfortable with that. He knows his role; last season, Pro Football Focus rated him as the best blocking tight end in the league.
Don't think that wasn't attractive to Haley and coach Mike Tomlin, who have emphasized the necessity of re-establishing an effective running game. The Steelers, who have led the league in rushing since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, were 26th in rushing last season.
A strong blocking tight end could help trigger that running game, especially when Miller returns and can line up with Spaeth in twin tight end formations. Last season, Leonard Pope and rookie David Paulson were the primary backup tight ends.
“I'm a role guy, I know I've got a role, and I never worry about how many balls are being thrown to me,” Spaeth said. “My goal is to go out every day and every game and play as well as I can, whether that's catching passes or blocking, it doesn't matter.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- This year’s NFL Draft does not appear to offer a Gronkowski type
- Steelers won’t be backed into a corner at NFL Draft
- Minnesota tight end Williams hopes to join father as 1st-round pick
- Ex-Alabama WR Cooper gains separation from other draft prospects at position
- Steelers visit with Arizona State receiver Strong, claim long snapper
- Steelers veteran cornerback Ike Taylor announces retirement
- Steelers notebook: Nebraska LB scheduled to visit Steelers Thursday
- NFL draft preview: Rich harvest of receivers
- Maligned Nebraska OLB Gregory visits Steelers