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Steelers 2015 depth chart: Expect a new tight end coming to Pittsburgh via the draft

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Steelers tight end Heath Miller has been the man for over a decade. Expect the team to begin grooming his replacement in 2015.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers hit free agency hard last year, bringing in a handful of veteran players to earn starting roles and improve depth.

Here is a position-by-position look at the Steelers depth chart going into this year's March 10 start of free agency.

PITTSBURGH -- Heath Miller has been the Steelers' top tight end for a decade, and while he had a big year catching passes the club should look for a replacement with a high draft pick.

Miller is among the league's best blocking tight ends, and he caught 66 passes for 761 yards and three touchdowns. That last number was down a bit from his top years, but Miller is a reliable receiver and still could be a red-zone threat. However, the Steelers have others to fill that role, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still uses Miller as a safety blanket when in trouble.

Miller has two years remaining on the three-year contract he signed in 2013 with a salary at $4 million the final two seasons. His cap hit this year is just $5.67 million, so he's still a bargain. But he's really the only pass-catching option among the Steelers tight ends. Matt Spaeth had just three catches for 46 yards and a touchdown, and Michael Palmer's only catch went for a score as well. But they were not really threats as receivers.

At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Spaeth basically was used as an additional offensive tackle for the Steelers, and he usually excelled at the position. Spaeth is an unrestricted free agent, but he could be re-signed at the veteran minimum -- or close to it -- to extend his second stint with the club.

The Steelers have used fullback Will Johnson as an additional blocker and an occasional runner and pass-catcher -- two carries, six catches -- but his primary contribution is on special teams. Johnson is a restricted free agent and could be re-signed for a minimal cap hit this year.

Palmer also is a free agent and likely won't return after playing primarily on special teams in 2014. He played just 30 offensive snaps. The Steelers have last year's seventh-round pick, Rob Blanchflower from Massachusetts (6-4, 256), under contract and on the future list with third-year player Michael Egnew from Missouri (6-5, 260). But no one should be surprised if the Steelers select a tight end during the NFL Draft, held April 30-May 2 at Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Ill.