Quietly, Heath Miller No. 2

Hines Ward is the Steelers' all-time leader in receptions. Tight end Heath Miller quietly became No. 2 last week.

Pop quiz time.

Today's question: Who are the top two receptions leaders in Steelers history?

* Ben Roethlisberger:

"Hines is number one," Roethlisberger correctly said of the man with 1,000 catches.

"And number two, I would say Stallworth."

Nope. John Stallworth is now third with 537.

* Matt Spaeth:

"I don't know for sure," said one of the Steelers tight ends. "Lynn Swann?"

Nope. Swann might be a Hall of Famer but he's actually sixth on the team list with 336 receptions.

Spaeth had better be right about No. 2.

"Oh, I know," Spaeth said excitedly. "Heath is second now."

Heath Miller is indeed second now. His eight catches at New England moved him past Stallworth into second place.

Although no one seems to know it.

Even in the Steelers' press release about today's game against the San Francisco 49ers, Miller is ranked third, although the number has been changed to Miller's 540 receptions.

Two members of the PR staff were talking to Miller and looking embarrassment right in the eye when the guy with the pop quiz came around.

Who's second on the all-time receptions list?

PR Man No. 1 shrugged his shoulders, but PR Man No. 2, the guy in charge of statistics and the press release, pointed to Miller.

PR Man No. 1 quickly agreed, but Miller didn't want to hear it.

"See how he didn't want to give me credit there," Miller joked. "He wanted to say somebody else."

Miller may be humble, and horrified by interviews about his accomplishments, but he can hang with the best of the locker-room ballbusters.

"It relates perfectly to the conversation we were just having," Miller said to PR Man No. 1.

How's that?

"How they don't take care of me," Miller said. "They're scared of other guys so they just send me to do stuff. You wouldn't have done that to James."

Miller laughed as the PR men gracefully exited the interview area.

Is it a big deal to Miller?

"Uh, I'm sure it will be when I can reflect on things," Miller said. "But it's hard to compare different eras. Obviously John Stallworth is a Steelers legend, a Hall of Famer, but I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it right now."

It sure seems like an historic feat, yet so little fuss was made. As Roethlisberger pointed out -- after happily learning that Miller was in fact now second -- it probably had to do with playing on the road, where such accomplishments aren't trumpeted by the stadium public address announcer.

"I knew he was close," Roethlisberger said. "I always look in the program that has the records the Steelers are about to break, especially him because I love him to death, and I always like to see how close he is to moving up, the yards and stuff. I know certain things he'll never pass, but I knew there was one he was close to. So that's the one. That's great."

Yes, Miller is now second, 460 catches away from tying Hines Ward at the top of the all-time Steelers list.

That's certainly out of the question. Unless Miller has another eight years left.

Does he?

"Maybe 10," he said with a chuckle. "Antonio would probably pass me before I get there though."

True point that.

Antonio Brown is just beginning his sixth season and his nine catches in the opener gave him 399.

When pressed about the accomplishment of a tight end passing a legendary 14-year wide receiver, Miller just shrugged it off.

"Ah, stick around one place long enough," he said. "And I've had a great quarterback going on 11 years now. That helps a great deal. A lot of guys don't have that luxury."

Miller remains a talented tight end. His eight catches in the opener represent his second-highest total since a torn ACL ended his 2012 season. His 84 receiving yards at New England rank as his fourth highest total since that awful day.

"He’s back to where he was when I got here," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. "I don’t think it’s the young Heath, not quite as dynamic, but man what a football player, what a guy to have on your team. Maybe he is the best football player I’ve been around, just all-around what he brings to you, and in such a quiet and unassuming way.

"But he still commands such leadership. He’s just a great football player, and he’s great to have around. The injury, obviously, slowed him, but I think he is back to where he was."

Today, Miller goes up against a 49ers defense that allowed only three points in its opener, mainly on the strength of a rugged run defense and their blitzing linebackers and safeties.

"They're tough on defense. They're really tough," Miller said. "They were able to shut down Minnesota's running game pretty much with seven in the box. That's pretty impressive."

Yes, the big man can be impressed. Just not about himself or his accomplishments, which are becoming legend.


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