MONDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Jesse James has some big shoes to fill.
He’s 6’7 and weighs 270, so I’m guessing he fills some pretty big shoes every day, but he’s also a tight end for the Steelers and that means, as of right now, he has to fill Heath Miller’s shoes.
Since he retired on Friday, I don’t think there is a person in Western Pennsylvania who has challenged the notion that Miller is the best tight end in Steelers history and he’s been one of the three best in the league for the last 11 years.
Miller was a first-round pick in 2005 and considered a possible steal at the time because he only fell that far because of some questions about his back.
He had won the John Mackey Award as the best tight end in college football.
James was ranked the seventh best tight end in the 2015 draft by Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN and the Steelers drafted him in the fifth round.
Miller started 15 games his rookie year. James started two games last season.
James is not likely to finish his career as the greatest tight end in Steelers history, but all the Steelers need from him right now is a good enough season to make them miss Miller as little as possible.
And they are going to miss him.
Miller was a fixture at the position. Ben Roethlisberger was able to count on him being there every week. In 11 seasons, Miller missed 8 games. He started 16 games six times, 15 games twice and 14 three times.
Miller only averaged three and a half catches per game but there were plenty of games when he had more than that and he made too many big, clutch catches to count and played a huge role in allowing Ben Roethlisberger to become famous for keeping plays alive longer than any quarterback in the league.
He leaves a huge hole in the Steelers offense and James has a lot of catching up to do to show that he can fill it.
So, do the Steelers draft a tight end in the first round?
Only if there is one who can come in and start right away. If there is no one available who could come in and steal the job from Jesse James, he’s probably not worth the pick.
Especially if there is a can’t miss cornerback available.
Remember, Miller was a factor from Day 1 his rookie year.
DEBATING BEST TIGHT ENDS IN STEELERS HISTORY
-So, is Heath Miller really the best tight end in Steelers history? Yeah, but for his dependability and durability more than his talent. He could make the tough catches and was pretty good at running after the catch but he wasn’t better than Eric Green.
Green was the Steelers first pick in 1990 and he was a beast – 6’5, 280 and he could run. That’s right – 280.
I don’t remember what kind of a blocker he was, but nobody cared. He caught 63 passes for 942 yards in 1993, good for 15 yards a catch. But he only played 16 games twice and I saw him throw up on the sideline after a long run in Arizona on a Monday night. Eric liked to eat and party a lot. He ate and partied himself out of town after only five seasons.
Bennie Cunningham was a first round pick in 1976 and played a role in two Steelers Super Bowl wins. He was 6-5, 254 and averaged 14.3 yards per catch for his career. Miller averaged 11.1.
He must have been a pretty good blocker, because the Steelers were one of the best running teams in the league. But he played on a team that was famous for not throwing to the tight end enough and only played 16 games once.
And don’t forget Elbie Nickel. He was named the tight end on the Steelers’ all time team during the 75th anniversary celebration in 2007. His 329 catches were the most in Steelers history until Miller passed him. Nickel missed one game his rookie year and never missed another one in 11 years. He averaged 15.6 yards a catch for his career and averaged 24.3 in 1949.
So, let’s celebrate Heath Miller’s career and let’s let him have the title as best in Steelers’ history, but let’s admit that it may not be a slam dunk.
If Salary Cap was instituted 4 years earlier, Jagr would still be a Penguin
-I don’t know what’s more amazing, the fact that Jaromir Jagr scored his 20th goal on Saturday or that he did it in his 56th game.
Jagr turned 44 last week. It’s one thing for a baseball player to hang around into his 40s or even a hockey goalie, but for a power forward to do it is ridiculous.
Jagr played in 77 games last season and 82 games in 13-14.
And Jagr isn’t just hanging around. He’s one of the best players in the league.