For Jesse James, and everyone else who was on the team during Heath Miller's 11-year career, seeing a different No. 83 out on the field during OTAs at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex is an odd feeling.
No disrespect to rookie receiver Canaan Severin, who is wearing No. 83 and just happened to play at Virginia like Miller, but Miller was a staple for the offense.
"It's a little different without him out here," said James. "You are going to miss a lot not having a guy like Heath. He was a great guy, great player, great leader, and a great friend. Not having him is going to hurt. Guys are going to miss him out here."
But there is one advantage to not having Miller for the other tight ends on the roster. With Miller gone, that means there are more snaps to go around. "For us as a tight end unit, there are snaps for the first time in 11 years," said James. "He has had every snap in every game. We are all competing and working hard, and for me I am trying to get as many snaps as I can."
Some of the competition James is going against comes from Ladarius Green, the veteran tight end signed during the offseason.
"He is a great player," said James. "He played great at San Diego. I am excited to see what he can do. He has been a great addition to the room, a great guy to work with."
James doesn't know how his role will play out for the 2016 season, or how Green's role and the other tight ends will play out. All he knows is offensive coordinator Todd Haley will put them in the best position to make plays.
"He does a great job making sure we get the best players on the field," said James. "He is going to utilize whatever your best abilities are. He is going to try and maximize those and make you the best player you can be."