The following is another in a series that picks a Steelers All-Modern Era Team. Players were considered based on having careers with the Steelers from 1992 until the present. The All-Modern Era team is made up of 26 players – 11 on offense, 11 on defense, and four specialists.
TODAY: Tight End
Besides quarterback, tight end is the only other unit on the All-Modern Era team to contain just one player. And that's a good thing, because while there have been a few quality tight ends in Steelers history, there has been a single outstanding one in the Modern Era.
Over his 10 NFL seasons since entering the league as the Steelers No. 1 draft pick in 2005, Heath Miller has played in 153 NFL games and started 152 of those; he has 532 receptions for 6,034 yards and 43 touchdowns. Miller's receiving yards total makes him only the 11th tight end in NFL history with over 6,000 in a career.
Photographs of Heath Miller.
But there is another statistic that speaks more loudly about Heath Miller: On Jan. 3, 2015, Miller started his 13th career playoff game. In his 10 seasons, Miller has averaged 15 regular season starts per, and those seasons produced enough winning for the Steelers to play in 13 playoff games and win two Super Bowls.
Miller is a winner. A team guy all the way. Dependable and reliable. Versatile. And tough enough and willing enough to block defensive ends for Le'Veon Bell and blitzing linebackers for Ben Roethlisberger.
OTHERS TO CONSIDER
Since the merger in 1970, the Steelers have used four first-round draft picks on tight ends. There was Bennie Cunningham in 1976, ERIC GREEN in 1990, MARK BRUENER in 1995, and Miller in 2005.
Cunningham finished with a couple of Super Bowl rings, but his career ended before the start of the Modern Era. Green was picked in 1990 because Chuck Noll had just hired Joe Walton as offensive coordinator and Walton insisted on featuring the tight end. During his entire five-year career in Pittsburgh, Green caught 198 passes for 2,681 yards and 24 touchdowns in 62 games, but only 123 of those catches for 1,712 yards and 11 touchdowns came during the Modern Era, which began in 1992.
Green missed six games in 1992 when he was suspended for violating the NFL's drug policy. He then left via free agency for the Miami Dolphins following the 1994 season.
Bruener was picked in the first round of the next draft to replace Green, and he should not be judged solely by his receiving totals. In 125 games over nine seasons with the Steelers, Bruener caught 137 passes for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns, 11 of which came in the first four of those nine seasons. But during that same span, the Steelers finished outside the top 10 in the NFL in rushing only twice – they were 12th in 1995, Bruener's rookie season; and they were 31st in 2003 when the team totally lost its way with Tommy Maddox at quarterback. Bruener's blocking was integral to the success the Steelers had in the running game during his career here.
TOMORROW: Offensive line