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Miller was the 'ultimate professional'

Posted Feb 22, 2016

Tight ends coach James Daniel knows better than anyone how Heath Miller approached the game.

Three pictures hang along a wall just inside tight ends coach James Daniel’s office. They are pictures of Daniel with the tight ends from each of the three Super Bowls he has been a part of with the Steelers – Super Bowl XL, XLIII and XLV.

The groups are all different, with players who have come and gone standing alongside Daniel, but there is one constant in all of them, Heath Miller.

“Man, I would have loved to gotten a fourth picture up there this year with Heath in it,” quipped Daniel. “I would have loved if we would have won another one with Heath here.”

The next time one of those pictures is taken, Miller won’t be in the picture after announcing his retirement on Feb. 19 after 11 seasons with the Steelers.

“He has been the cornerstone of this room for 11 years, most of the time that I have been here,” said Daniel, who became the tight ends coach in 2004, one year before Miller became the Steelers No. 1 draft pick. “It will be different. It will be difficult at times. I am happy for him because he is an outstanding young man.”

Daniel and Miller had the perfect coach-player relationship as they shared similar qualities. Both love to win, don’t feel the need to say a lot to get their message across, put the team first and put in more time working toward the team being successful than will ever be realized.

“Heath brought such leadership, a strong work ethic, and character to the tight ends room,” said a reflective Daniel. “He brought all the things that most people talk about as being ingredients for having a winning edge he brought to the room.”

Daniel referred to Miller as the “ultimate professional,” a player who had the ability to be a leader without having to open his mouth.

“He is someone every young player, and veteran, could look to as an example,” said Daniel. “The kind of leadership he showed was all you have to do. He would have the attitude I’m coming to work, now if you will just follow me. That is the kind of leadership he showed and it’s appreciated.”  

That leadership was highlighted last season when Miller served as a mentor and role model for rookie tight end Jesse James, who has credited Miller with his growth in year one.

“Heath opened his arms, opened his toolbox to try and teach Jesse all of the things that he learned,” said Daniel. “He was a team guy that was helping a guy just starting his career, trying to help him in his career and trying to help the team also.

“I think Jesse will continue that work ethic Heath taught, and I really hope so. That’s the legacy that Heath leaves.”

Miller’s productivity and reliability are two things that will be missed on the field next year, as losing a player who was a security blanket for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is never an easy thing.

“We’ll miss competitiveness, his drive for excellence,” said Daniel. “In my career of coaching tight ends, he is as good of an example as I had around me.

“We’ve got guys that will step up, but it will be hard not to have him for sure.”

Like everyone who will at Heinz Field next season, Daniel will miss hearing Heeeath rain down from the crowd, but he knows that Miller made the decision that was right for him and that has him smiling despite the disappointment losing him brings.

“He has put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears and through that you earn the opportunity for people to feel that way about you,” said Daniel. “Hearing the fans cheer for him, it’s fun. It’s exciting for him because it’s well deserved. That is the main thing.

“I think he is happy. I think he is happy with what he has accomplished. He knows where he is in life and he is at peace with it.”

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