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Ben: 'I learned every day from Heath'

Posted Feb 19, 2016

Ben Roethlisberger let his emotions be known when talking about Heath Miller.

It only took Ben Roethlisberger a split second to answer the question.

What was he going to miss most about tight end Heath Miller, who had just announced his retirement?

“Everything,” stated Roethlisberger.

And you knew he meant it.

Roethlisberger and Miller have been teammates for 11 seasons, Roethlisberger the Steelers No. 1 pick in 2004, Miller in 2005. But more than that, they have been friends, confidants, leaders, and family.

It made it tough for Roethlisberger to even put into words what Miller has meant to him.

“To put together a statement is hard because where do you start with Heath Miller?” said Roethlisberger. “For someone like me that has been blessed to play with someone like him, not just from a physical standpoint of how great of a football player he was, but the type of person he was, the type of teammate he was. Probably hands down the best teammate I have been a part of.

“It’s hard to talk about Heath, and I said this talking to him, it’s hard to do it without getting emotional. That’s how much he has meant to me as a football player, teammate and friend. I have been so lucky and blessed to have Heath around my whole career, 11 years. To have someone like him on my side has truly been a blessing.”

Roethlisberger said he knew this time was coming, something that the two of them talked about already, but it still wasn’t easy because like he said, this was the best teammate he ever had.

“It was everything,” said Roethlisberger about what stood out about Miller. “From his play and beyond. In an era when the tight end has gone by the wayside in a way, from when he was getting in the league and as he has progressed in the league the tight end has turned into a receiving tight end. They don’t ask tight ends to block anymore and do the things we asked him to do. 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.”

Miller always took a quiet, humble approach to everything he did, but his actions and the few words he did say, they spoke volumes.

“When it comes to the locker room, when he speaks, you listen,” said Roethlisberger. “He didn’t do it a lot, but when he did everyone listened. Just a guy that always put the team and everyone else ahead of himself. The aspect of his game and persona, everything he did. He was always in meetings early. He was the guy you could count on to do the right thing every time.

“I learned every day from Heath Miller. That is what I told him when I talked to him. It’s going to be hard not to have him around and have another voice in the locker room that cares so much about the team and puts the team first. In a day in sports where there are a lot of selfish people, he is one of the most selfless people and that will be truly missed.

“It will be tough. I guess if you play this game long enough you lose a lot of friends. It was tough last year not having (Brett) Keisel, a close friend of mine. This is just as tough, if not more because he is on my side of the ball. He is an offensive guy I have been around and thrown the ball to so many times. It’s not going to be fun. You are going to miss a guy like that. They don’t make them like him anymore.”

While missing him off the field is first and foremost in Roethlisberger’s heart, there is no doubt he is going to miss what Miller brought to the field. Miller, who finished his career ranked second in team history with 592 receptions and fourth in yards with 6,569, was one of the most dependable targets Roethlisberger ever had to work with.

“He was always in the right place,” said Roethlisberger. “He was a guy that we developed an amazing relationship and rapport. When there was trouble, I knew he was going to be in the right spot. That’s what made him special. He was going to be in the place he was supposed to be. I knew I didn’t have to guess or wonder. I knew he would be there. There were times I would ask if he was open and he would say no and I knew he was. That was the selfless part of him.”

Roethlisberger said he almost wishes Miller would have let his retirement be known during the season, so that Steelers Nation could give him a sendoff with one final ‘Heeeath’ at Heinz Field.

“It’s not Heath’s way,” said Roethlisberger. “I knew this was coming so I prepared for it. No one else really did. Selfishly I wish he would get that one last time, that last recognition. I wish that people could prepare for that one last game with Heath, that one last catch from Heath, come out of that tunnel one last time. That is what people want, but that is not who he is as a person.

“Heath is such a selfless person. He doesn’t celebrate, he doesn’t do anything. Any time Heath caught a ball in a big time situation he just kind of flipped the ball. We knew that he was excited. When that happened it got us all excited.

“We are honored to have the chance to play with him, and we will miss him.”

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