Heath Miller had been a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 5 years when the 2010 season kicked off. Miller would play 6 seasons in the decade, and yet end up 11th in Football Outsiders DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) for the decade. All ten tight ends above him on the list played more games in the decade than Heath Miller.
Football Outsiders recently compiled the numbers for the entire decade and made lists of the 20 best and worst tight ends to qualify in DYAR. No small samples on the list, players had to be consistent players and targets.
I was a bit surprised by his place on the list, but I shouldn’t have been. Heath Miller was always a great blocking tight end, and was under-utilized in the offense too often, but he was always a reliable target for Ben Roethlisberger. Even as he slowed down in his 30s, Miller was still making plays for the black and gold.
Heath Miller wasn’t the only Steeler TE to show up in the article. Current Steeler Vance McDonald ended up the 18th worst TE of the decade. Fans shouldn’t feel too bad about the ranking though, the gap in DYAR per game between Heath Miller (+5.4) and Vance McDonald (-1.0) isn’t that big. In reality, 6.4 yards per game isn’t insignificant but it isn’t horrible either. It is also important to note that McDonald’s -83 DYAR is entirely fueled by his 2019 season when he posted a -83 DYAR. Quick math will tell you he measured out as a replacement level receiver before last season.
If you are curious about Steelers 2020 free agent addition, Eric Ebron, he missed the top 20 list by 17 total DYAR. If you look past his rookie year, Eric Ebron would be worth +5.01 DYAR per game, still below Heath Miller levels, but a good step up from Vance McDonald.
Football Outsiders also made lists of the best and worst TE games of the decade, Vance McDonald made the list for his game against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10 of 2019. The Steelers defense shows up 4 times on those lists, three times for giving up big games to Rob Gronkowski (who showed up a total of 7 times on the list), and once for David Njoku’s awful game to start the 2018 season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers should be a better offense overall in 2020. An important factor in that improvement will be using the tight ends more effectively than they have in recent years.