Mike Tomlin did not start his weekly Tuesday press conference by assessing the current Steelers as they come off of their bye week. The Steelers coach instead kicked things off by paying homage to a former fan favorite who will be honored by the club at halftime of Sunday’s game against New Orleans.
Tomlin alluded to the franchise’s Hall of Honor enshrinement of its 2022 class. The class includes a player whose name is still chanted in stadiums — both home and away — any time a Steelers tight end catches a pass.
“Get an opportunity to honor some Steelers legends,” Tomlin said. “Within that group, my man, Heath Miller.”
Miller headlines an enshrinement class that also features halfback/right end Ray Matthews (1951-59), guard Sam Davis (1967-79), and longtime broadcaster Myron Cope. Matthews was a multiple Pro Bowl performer for the Steelers during the 1950s. Davis won four Super Bowls and was a key member of an offensive line that blocked for two 1,000-yard rushers in 1976. Cope is remembered for his unique commentary as well as the creation of the Terrible Towel during the Steelers’ 1975 Super Bowl run.
The hard-working, no-nonsense Miller holds the unofficial title as the best tight end in Steelers history. He made an immediate impact in Pittsburgh while helping the franchise end its 26-year title drought during his rookie season. Miller ultimately won two Super Bowls with the Steelers while helping Pittsburgh reach a third Super Bowl in 2010.
Pittsburgh’s team MVP in 2012, Miller is among the Steelers all-time leaders in receptions (592), yards (6,569) and touchdowns (45). The Virginia alum caught an additional 49 passes for 587 yards and four touchdowns in 15 career playoffs games.
Miller made an immense impact on Ben Roethlisberger, who had just completed his rookie season when the Steelers took Miller with the 30th overall pick in the 2005 draft. Miller served as a security blanket or sorts for Roethlisberger, who hailed Miller’s prowess as a complete tight end.
“They don’t ask tight ends to block anymore and do the things we asked him to do,” Roethlisberger told Steelers.com. “He easily has the best hands I have been around. He gets open, he wins his matchups. He will do the blocking. He takes pride in blocking. He takes pride in the run game being an extra lineman. When a goal line situation presents itself, and it’s a running situation, he is not coming out because he likes to block. He takes pride in that. A person that takes pride in every aspect of his job makes him special.”
Beyond statistics, what Miller brought to the team from an intangible standout is what truly endeared himself to his teammates, coaches and fans.
“He’s not no maintenance, he’s no maintenance,” Tomlin said following Miller’s retirement in 2016. “He’s always put the Pittsburgh Steelers first in every aspect of his professional life. I don’t know that I can describe that. I don’t know that there has been a guy that I’ve been around like him from an unselfishness standpoint. … I just don’t know that I’ve ever seen a regrettable moment in him. That just speaks to who he is.
“He’s the type of person that I want my boys to be. He has inspired me in that way when I look at him and I think about his body of work, personally and professionally.”