It took a win by the Indianapolis Colts to make official what the Pittsburgh Steelers have understood all along.
Heath Miller is a Pro Bowl tight end.
With the Colts defeating the New York Jets to earn the AFC's spot in Super Bowl XLIV, Miller as the first alternate gets the spot on the Pro Bowl roster to be forfeited by Indianapolis' Dallas Clark, who was the leading vote-getter among the conference's tight ends.
Miller's acceptance of the invitation means he would play in his first Pro Bowl, the first Steelers tight end to get there since Eric Green played in the 1994 game. In fact, Miller becomes just the fourth tight end in franchise history to make a Pro Bowl by joining Elbie Nickel (three appearances), Preston Carpenter (one) and Green (one).
"He is one of the best, if not the best, all-around tight ends in the game," said Ben Roethlisberger said early in the 2009 season about Miller. "To me, Heath doesn't get even close to the credit he deserves. He doesn't get that credit because he doesn't put up the big numbers."
As this past season wore on, however, Miller did accumulate some very impressive numbers as a receiver to draw more voters' eyes to his overall game. His 76 catches were a franchise record for a tight end by a bunch, and those were good for 789 yards and six touchdowns, which tied him for second on the team in that category to Rashard Mendenhall's eight.
Clark led all AFC tight ends with 100 catches, and San Diego's Antonio Gates was next with 79.
Miller's 2009 numbers are the best of a five-year career that began with the Steelers as a first-round pick in 2005. His reception totals over the previous three seasons had improved from 34 to 47 and then 48, before exploding to the 76 he ended up with in 2009.
"Being with Ben year after year and being on the same page with him, that kind of plays into it," Miller said. "This is our fifth year together. Relationships only get better over time. We've played a lot of snaps together. A lot of times we're on the same page and that pays off for both of us."
The rapport between Roethlisberger and Miller has become an important part of the Steelers offense.
"I've always said when he's blocking he's like another lineman, and when he's out in pass patterns he's another receiver," Roethlisberger said of Miller. "Even when he's not open, if you just put it close to him he's going to make the play."