Miller gives offense target at tight end

Pittsburgh Steelers

Replenishing the Division Rivals

September 08, 2005|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,SUN STAFF

In the Pittsburgh Steelers' world view of offense, tight ends have been considered not so much a third option in the passing game but rather a third tackle on running plays.

With the tight end merely a cog in the Steelers' battering-ram, run-oriented attack, no starter at the position has caught more than 20 passes in a season in nearly a decade.

So when Pittsburgh took Virginia tight end Heath Miller with the 30th pick in this year's draft, it signaled a significant shift in the way coach Bill Cowher plans to do business on offense.

As a senior, the 6-foot-5, 256-pound Miller was a featured pass catcher with 41 receptions for 541 yards, earning the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end. He had 70 catches for 835 yards as a junior.

Cowher is mindful that he needs to add some youth on offense to go along with second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Veteran runner Jerome Bettis is 33, often-hurt tailback Duce Staley is 30 and star wide-out Hines Ward is 29.

"To have a tight end who can catch and spread the field can only enhance our offense. ... It's nice to have two young players who will have a chance to play together for a long time and evolve," Cowher said of Roethlisberger and the rookie tight end.

Since the Steelers use so many two-tight end formations, Miller likely will see action along with incumbent starter Jerame Tuman, who had nine catches for 89 yards and three touchdowns in 2004.

"It's exciting to get here just a year behind Ben," said Miller, who has run 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash. "Considering the success he's had, you have to think he's going to continue to have a lot of success for a long time and I'd love to be here and be a part of that."

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