The stars align

Sometimes, the stars align and a team picking at the bottom of the first round gets a player it not only wants, but one it needs.

Certainly last year you could say the same thing when the Steelers used the 11th pick in the draft to take quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But there's a big difference between picking 11th and 30th.

At 30, you're at the mercy of so many others' needs that often you can only take the best athlete available.

But every once in a while, everything just works out and you can not only fill a need, but you can do so with a superior player.

That's what happened for the Steelers Saturday.

When you looked up and down their roster, one of the few positions where they had a starter who was not only below average with no real heir apparent was at tight end.

Hence, when Heath Miller was available when the time came for the Steelers to make the 30th pick, it was pretty much a no-brainer.

"We're had our eye on Heath throughout the whole (draft) process," said director of football operations Kevin Colbert.

The five tight ends currently on the Steelers' roster combined to catch all of 15 passes last season, led by starter Jerame Tuman's nine receptions and three touchdowns. Marco Battaglia and Matt Kranchick didn't have a catch between them, while Matt Cushing and Walter Rasby had the receptions.

You could make the arguement that the Steelers' most effective tight end last season was Max Starks, an offensive tackle who reported as an elligible receiver several times per game in short-yardage situations.

Miller will serve as a nice security blanket for Roethlisberger while also allowing the Steelers to pound away with their running game.

"It's a great place to be for a tight end," said Miller. "I know I'm going to have to be a good blocker and a good receiver, which is what I want to be."

For much of Cowher's tenure, blocking has been the primary duty of the tight ends. And with untested Starks stepping into the starting lineup at right tackle this season, you can bet that Miller will spend a lot of time lined up next to Starks.

But there was a time during Cowher's tenure when the tight end was a primary offensive weapon. In 1993, Eric Green caught a team tight-end record 63 passes for 942 yards and five touchdowns. The following season, Green had 46 catches for 618 and four touchdowns before taking his considerable talents - and matching backside - to Miami as a free agent.

"When we had Eric Green here, we tried to utilize him," said Cowher. "I am not saying (Miller) is Eric Green, but we think he is a pretty good football player who is not just a one-dimensional guy."

And that's just what the doctor ordered.

Steel City Insider Top Stories