Is Heath Miller A Future Hall of Famer? | Steel City Underground

Steel City Underground

steelers.com

My regular audience must think I'm off my rocker. First I suggest that Heath Miller may have been forced to retire, now I'm suggesting he might be a Hall of Famer.

Stick with me here.

Heath Miller is without a doubt a Pittsburgh Steeler great and will go down as the team's greatest tight end to date. However, is Heath one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history?

On Friday, Heath Miller retired as 1 of 12 tight ends with 6,000 or more career receiving yards, but when I dug deeper (and depending on how one wants to classify pre-modern era tight ends) Heath is in good company. In fact, Heath was 11th on that list, with only 4 players ahead of him having been enshrined in Canton: Shannon Sharpe, Ozzie Newsome, Jackie Smith and Kellen Winslow.

Rk G GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD
1 Tony Gonzalez 270 254 2012 1325 15127 11.42 111
2 Jason Witten 207 197 1438 1020 11215 11.00 60
3 Antonio Gates 190 176 1269 844 10644 12.61 104
4 Shannon Sharpe* 204 169 1197 815 10060 12.34 62
5 Harold Carmichael 182 160 590 8985 15.23 79
6 Carroll Dale 189 54 438 8277 18.90 52
7 Ozzie Newsome* 198 191 662 7980 12.05 47
8 Jackie Smith* 210 73 480 7918 16.50 40
9 Pete Retzlaff 132 0 452 7412 16.40 47
10 Kellen Winslow* 109 94 541 6741 12.46 45
11 Heath Miller 168 167 825 592 6569 11.10 45
12 Steve Jordan 176 149 121 498 6307 12.66 28
13 Greg Olsen 142 116 877 542 6292 11.61 49
14 Jeremy Shockey 136 129 884 547 6143 11.23 37
15 Brandon Lloyd 142 91 831 399 5989 15.01 36
16 Todd Christensen 137 90 461 5872 12.74 41
17 Todd Heap 145 131 817 499 5869 11.76 42
18 Vernon Davis 148 140 745 461 5841 12.67 55
19 Mike Ditka* 158 98 427 5812 13.61 43
20 Riley Odoms 153 134 396 5755 14.53 41

* Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

Obviously, statistics aside (because receiving yards aren't a measuring stick of overall greatness) this still got me thinking: does Heath deserve a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

The answer isn't as easy as yes or no.

When analyzing the data, we can clearly see how the modern era, particularly the last decade or so, has redefined the position. Players such as Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates are monsters of their position, putting up video game numbers. So are players such as Rob Gronkowski, who needs less than 500 yards to surpass 6,000 in his career, or Greg Olsen, who already has: both already have more career touchdowns than Miller's 45.

But then you look at an Ozzie Newsome, Mike Ditka or Kellen Winslow, and while those names truly stand out far more in conversation, for their era, than Heath Miller, Miller scored as many touchdowns as Winslow, but played in 59 more games. That means Heath took 1/3 as long to accumulate similar totals to Winslow, but by the same token, Newsome played 30 more games than Miller, with about 1300 more yards and only 2 more scores.

That would mean an average of 650 yards per season with 1 touchdown, had Heath played 2 more seasons. In his last season, Miller gained 535 yards and scored 2 touchdowns. He only surpassed 650 yards receiving 3 times in 11 seasons, leaving "what ifs" as merely such.

However, it is Miller's 167 starts that ranks him high above the list, a consistent and durable player during those 11 campaigns, which netted Miller 592 catches, a distinction that drives him further up the totem poll:

Rk G GS Tgt Rec Yds TD
1 Tony Gonzalez 270 254 2012 1325 15127 111
2 Jason Witten 207 197 1438 1020 11215 60
3 Antonio Gates 190 176 1269 844 10644 104
4 Shannon Sharpe* 204 169 1197 815 10060 62
5 Ozzie Newsome* 198 191 662 7980 47
6 Keith Byars 189 160 428 610 5661 31
7 Heath Miller 168 167 825 592 6569 45
8 Harold Carmichael 182 160 590 8985 79
9 Jeremy Shockey 136 129 884 547 6143 37
10 Greg Olsen 142 116 877 542 6292 49
11 Kellen Winslow* 109 94 541 6741 45
12 Dallas Clark 143 118 776 505 5665 53
13 Frank Wycheck 155 135 740 505 5126 28
14 Todd Heap 145 131 817 499 5869 42
15 Ben Coates 158 114 786 499 5555 50
16 Steve Jordan 176 149 121 498 6307 28
17 Jackie Smith* 210 73 480 7918 40
18 Owen Daniels 131 125 758 479 5661 36
19 Kellen Winslow 105 83 759 469 5236 25
20 Mickey Shuler 180 107 462 5100 37

* Enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

Heath's totals being 7th most all-time at the time of his retirement furthers his case for Canton, though I feel skeptic that players such as Gonzalez, Gates and even Jason Witten overshadow the national attention on Miller's accomplishments anywhere outside of Pittsburgh.

Regardless, Steeler fans acknowledge they have seen one of Pittsburgh's, if not one of the NFL's, greatest tight ends play the game. And at the end of the day, it's that appreciation which may eventually echo that a two-time Super Bowl Champion is worth of the game's greatest title: Hall of Famer.





Sound Off! Let's hear what you have to say in our comments section

We require all users to register on our website in order to maintain a friendly community. If you wish to continue, you may sign up for a free SCU Black membership or you may enjoy ad-free browsing of our site and other special features by upgrading to an SCU Gold membership.

Leave a Reply