Haley: 'He would do anything you asked'

When doling out praise on a player, Todd Haley is someone who can definitely speak from experience.

Haley is entering his 20th season in the NFL coaching ranks, with the role of position coach, coordinator and head coach all under his belt. So when the Steelers offensive coordinator puts a player at the top of his list, you know that individual had to be special because he has seen a lot of players come and go through the years.

And who is at the top of his list? It should come as no surprise, Ben Roethlisberger.

"No disrespect to a lot of great players but I don't think I've been around anyone as good as Heath when you look at his ability, talent, playmaking, and unselfishness," said Haley. "He would do anything you asked and come to you asking what you needed him to do. Maybe telling you what we need him to do. He would do anything.

"He was an extra lineman, extra receiver, and extra running back. There were times when we would put him in the backfield when we were short at the running back position. He knew all of their protections. You never had to worry about Heath. That is very comforting for coaches and the players around him. He was a very calming force for everyone around him."

A calming force that will be missed next season as Miller retired last week after 11 seasons with the Steelers.

Miller finished his career ranked second in team history with 592 receptions and fourth in yards with 6,569, but his contributions went far beyond that.

"He did so much more than what was visible to the general public, starting from even off the field from a leadership standpoint," said Haley. "For me personally, coming in as a new coach five years ago he got behind me immediately, which is a big thing for a new coach on a staff of existing guys. Within the locker room a quiet guy, but led by example. On the field within games, not even the obvious playmaking stuff, or blocks, protecting Ben (Roethlisberger), being a security blanket for Ben, how he handled the sideline when things weren't going the way we necessarily wanted them to go. He was always a communicator, a calming force, not just for tight ends, but to the offensive line, running backs, receivers and coaches. It's hard to describe how much he meant to this group."

So many aspects of Miller's game will be missed next year, but the biggest might be the one that comes from the quiet side of Miller, his leadership.

"One of the things I was taught very early and look for as a coach now going on 20 years, you look for guys who are the same guy every day," said Haley. "You don't want guys who are up and down, yo-yos. You want guys who are the same every day. There is nobody who epitomized that more than Heath Miller in my mind. You knew where he was going to be, when he was going to be there. You never had to think twice. He was the consummate professional on every level. When young guys see a guy handle his business like that, it makes it very easy to follow that lead and develop the young guys in that same type of mentality.

"When you have a lot of young guys like we have the last few years you have to spend extra time, you have extra anxiety worrying about those young guys, will they know what to do, when they are supposed to do it. When you have a guy like Heath who you don't have to worry about those things and he is going to help those guys in his own way. That is going to be sorely missed."

One young guy who greatly benefited from Miller's leadership is tight end Jesse James. James grew by leaps and bounds as a rookie last year with Miller as his mentor and it's something that is going to pay dividends for him and the team moving forward.

"Everybody saw Jesse grow exponentially during the year," said Haley. "When you are hanging around a guy like Heath Miller every single day, and you have the right attitude which Jesse did, I think it's priceless time spent together. Those will be lessons and vivid images in Jesse's mind of how Heath handled business on a daily basis that I think Jesse will take with him for his entire career."

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