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All Things TE Heath Miller - A Comprehensive Look Back And Forward

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are a much more dangerous offensive football team when QB Ben Roethlisberger is looking TE Heath Miller's way by design more than just a handful of times per game.

Here were Miller's final 2008 statistics:


Receiving
G Rec Yds Y/G AVG Lng TD
13 48 514 39.5 10.7 22 3

 

Miller set a career high in receptions in 2008, but he average the fewest yards per reception of his career, and for the fourth time in as many years failed to reach the 50 reception plateau. The 3 TDs were also a career low

Top 10 TE RECEPTION LEADERS IN 2008 (PASSES THROWN TO):

 
1)
Tony Gonzalez - 96 receptions (155)

2 ) Chris Cooley - 83 receptions (111)

Hmil_medium

3) Jason Witten - 81 receptions (120)

4) Dallas Clark - 77 receptions (107)

5) Owen Daniels -70 receptions (100)

6) Antonio Gates - 60 receptions (92)

7) Bo Scaiffe - 58 receptions (84)

8) Zach Miller - 56 receptions (86)

9) Greg Olson - 55 receptions (82)

10) Jon Carlson - 54 receptions (80)

 

Heath Miller - 48 receptions (65)

 

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TOP CATCH % OF RECEPTION LEADERS (DVOA RANK, min 50 passes)

 

1) Chris Cooley - 75% (18)

2) Heath Miller - 74% (7)

2005-12-15-miller_1__medium3) Dallas Clark - 72% (12)

4) Owen Daniels - 70% (9)

5) Bo Scaiffe - 69% (24)

6) John Carlson - 69% (10)

7) Jason Witten - 68% (11)

8)  Greg Olson - 66% (25)

9) Zach Miller - 65% (16)

10) Antonio Gates - 65% (13)

11) Tony Gonzalez - 61% (14)

 

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2008 STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Surprise, surprise --it would have been nice to get Heath the ball more. I really should feel just fine stopping there, as the numbers tell the story. When Ben throws the ball to Heath Miller, good things happen. His catch % is the second highest in the league of anyone thrown the ball more than 50 times. And as measured by DVOA, Miller performed better in 2008 in the situations presented to him better than did the 11 guys who finished 2008 with more receptions. Can I even recommend forcing the ball to him occasionally if that's what it takes?

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MOVING FORWARD - SALARY AND FREE AGENCY CONSIDERATIONS

 

Heath will be a free agent at the end of the 2009 season, meaning that historically, this would be the offseason that the front office would decide whether or not to re-sign Miller to an extension that would likely make him one of the top 5-7 TEs in the game. How much might that cost? Let's take a look at what some of the more highly paid TEs in the league earned in 2008.

Top 10 TE Cap Hits In 2008 (Not base salary, but cap hit)

1) Tony Gonzalez (Kansas City)- $5.03 million

2) Kellen Winslow, Jr. (Cleveland) -  $4.599 million

3) L.J. Smith (Philadelphia) - $4.523 million

4) Antonio Gates (San Diego) - $4.2 million

5) Daniel Graham (Denver) - $4.15 million

6) Jason Witten (Dallas) - $4.11 million

7) Randy McMichael (St. Louis) - $3.9 million

8) Jim Kleinsasser (Who the hell?) - $3.85 million

9) Todd Heap (Baltimore) - $3.5 million

10) Vernon Davis (San Francisco) - $3.34 million

 

Contracts Worth Looking At - Extensions Following Rookie Contracts

Chris Cooley (26 years) - signed 6-year $30 million ($11 mil. signing bonus)

Jason Witten (26 years) - signed 6-year $29 million ($6 mil. signing bonus) in 2006

Antonio Gates (28 years) - signed 6-year $24 million ($6 mil. signing bonus) in 2005

Daniel Graham (30 years) - signed 5-year $30 million ($10 mil. signing bonus) in 2007

Dallas Clark (29 years) - signed 6-year $36 million ($11 mil. signing bonus) in 2008

Heath Miller (26 years) - ?????????????

We'll see what happens, but for what it's worth only Dallas Clark and Daniel Graham were not re-signed in the month of August right around the start of training camp. So don't be surprised if it doesn't happen, if it does at all, until after free agency and the draft.

Believe me, I want Heath Miller in the fold in Pittsburgh for his entire career, but if there's tough choices to be made between him and other more pressing positional needs, I will be able to live with a decision to not re-up the talented work-horse out of Virginia. Remember, the Rooney and Colbert drafted Matt Spaeth a few years ago, most likely as a viable contingency plan to fill in for Heath if salary cap considerations forced their hand.