Retirement a 'hard adjustment' for Miller

Heath Miller glanced over his shoulder, looking out at Heinz Field, and smiled.

"It feels like I am coming back home," said Miller.

In a sense he was, even if it was just for a few days.

Miller was back in Pittsburgh recently to help roast former teammate Brett Keisel at the Mel Blount Celebrity Roast, an event held at Heinz Field, the place Miller called home for 11 seasons before he retired from the Steelers after the 2015 season.   

It was a rare visit for Miller, because coming back isn't easy. Like many athletes, getting accustomed to retirement was a challenge, and still is. Miller spent most of his life playing sports, football in particular, so stepping away was more of a struggle than he anticipated.

"It's a hard adjustment," said Miller. "I don't think you can ever really prepare yourself for it. It's something that has been our passion since we were little kids, and to just leave and move on is difficult. But it's something we will all have to do sooner or later."

While most of Steelers Nation was tuned in to every move the Steelers made, every game played the last two years, Miller wasn't. And it wasn't because he didn't care. It was just difficult, especially watching games.

"I don't watch too much," said Miller. "I think I have gotten better. As I move away from the game a little more it will be easier to watch."

He misses the competition. He misses game day. He misses the adrenaline rush. But there is something he misses even more.

"I miss the team the most, being around your brothers every day and your friends," said Miller. "I think the camaraderie of the team I miss.

"You miss the relationships. You try to keep in touch with as many people as you can. Lives are busy and we don't get to see each other every day like we used to. We were spoiled in that regard."

What he doesn't miss, is simple.

"Training camp," laughed Miller. "We can start there and end there."

Miller was the Steelers No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He started 167 of 168 games played during the regular season, and all 15 postseason contests that he played in. Miller's 168 regular-season games played are the most by a tight end in Steelers' history.

The memories he etched in the minds of Steelers fans are numerous, too many to name, and too many for him to pinpoint just one that stands out.

"It's all great memories," said Miller. "I was fortunate to be a part of this team for 11 years. You have too many good memories to name one or two."

Miller retired as the all-time leader in receptions (592), receiving yards (6,569) and receiving touchdowns (45) by a tight end. He was a member of the Steelers Super Bowl XL and XLIII Championship teams, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and team MVP in 2012.   

And there is no question, he was a fan favorite. Miller never expected that two seasons after he retired that 'Heeeaaath' would still be heard when a tight end makes a catch at Heinz Field. But without fail, when Jesse James makes a catch, Steelers faithful does just that.

"It's humbling," said Miller. "It makes you realize and appreciate how passionate the fans were and how much you were recognized and well-liked by the fans. It means a lot. It's not taken lightly by any means.

"Steelers fans meant a lot to me. To represent them and to be able to bring joy not only to our lives, but the whole city, it meant a lot. Guys on the team when I played, and I am sure guys on the team now, don't take that lightly.

"It was always fun for me to play for the Rooney family, to represent the City of Pittsburgh, the tradition of the Steelers. That was something that was awesome. Not a lot teams have that opportunity throughout the league. I feel fortunate that I was given that by Mr. (Dan) Rooney, Coach (Bill) Cowher, Kevin (Colbert) and the guys who drafted me to be here. I didn't take that lightly."  

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