News like Heath Miller's retirement from the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL never gets easier. As more and more players from my younger days, and the glory days of those incredible early 2000s teams, decide to hang up the cleats, you realize not only how the revolving door in the NFL never stops, but I'm not getting any younger either!
I was saddened by Miller retiring, just as I was when James Harrison decided to call it a career before Jarvis Jones' injury in 2014 got him back on the roster, but Miller was different. It had nothing to do with position, statistics or even style of play. No, it had more to do with how Heath Miller embodied what it meant to be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In my 33-years on this Earth, I was taught at an early age why the Steelers were different. I was told stories about Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Franco Harris, but my father always made it a point to tell me how the 1970s dynasty went about their business. When it came to celebrations, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth throwing the ball behind their head was as flashy as it got.
Like my Dad always said, "Act like you've been there before." I'll never forget those words, and Miller could have been the poster boy for handling success in a humble and modest way. When you think about it, if someone asked you to pick one player who would define the Steelers organization by who they are, how they played and what they meant to the team and the fans, who would it be?
Many would choose players like "Mean" Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith or especially Hines Ward. All very deserving in their own right, but for me, I would take Heath Miller.
Miller wasn't just another player on my favorite team. He was the player with unflinching nerves to go over the middle and take bone crushing hits from defenders, he was the man who was never baited into retaliatory penalties and the man who's only celebration was handing the football to the nearest official.
Heath was quiet, and that was just fine by me -- he did his talking on the football field. He wasn't the Antonio Gates or Jason Witten of his time, but he didn't care, and neither did I. He was a true Steeler. Unselfish and willing to do whatever it took for the team to win. If he didn't catch a pass all season and the team won a Super Bowl, he would show up to work each day with his hard hat ready to block.
Miller wasn't just a quiet and nice guy. He had the statistics to back up his moniker as one of the best all-around tight ends in the league. When more and more tight ends were simply glorified receivers, Miller was an extra tackle use to protect Ben Roethlisberger and open up running lanes for Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker, Isaac Redman, Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams.
Miller was a 2-time Pro Bowl selection, holds nearly every tight end receiving record in Steelers' history, is among the top 3 players in terms of receptions in franchise history and is a 2-time Super Bowl champion, but that isn't what will be missed. What will be missed is the crowd, regardless of stadium, yelling, "HEEEATH" every time his hands rip the ball out of the air for a touchdown.
On behalf of Steelers fans everywhere, and BTSC, we thank you for the 11 years of joy you've brought us as fans. You and the Steelers were a perfect match, and you will certainly be missed -- not just in 2016, but beyond.