Pittsburgh Steelers' tight end Heath Miller announced his retirement from the NFL this week, officially bringing his career to an end after an impressive 11 seasons in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform.
Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke at length about the ever-reliable tight end in an interview with Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Friday, admitting he cried when he got the call from Miller.
"He told me it was official, that he was retiring," Roethlisberger said. "He thanked me for being his teammate and said how lucky he was to play with just one quarterback for all of his 11 years in the NFL. I told him he had it all wrong. I told (him) I was the lucky one."
Big Ben released a statement regarding who he calls his "closest teammate", and it describes him as being the man we all know he is.
“To put together a statement is hard because where do you start with Heath Miller?” Roethlisberger said to Steelers.com. “For someone like me that has been blessed to play with someone like him, not just from a physical standpoint of how great of a football player he was, but the type of person he was, the type of teammate he was. Probably hands down the best teammate I have been a part of.
“It’s hard to talk about Heath, and I said this talking to him, it’s hard to do it without getting emotional. That’s how much he has meant to me as a football player, teammate and friend. I have been so lucky and blessed to have Heath around my whole career, 11 years. To have someone like him on my side has truly been a blessing.”
“It was everything,” said Roethlisberger about what stood out about his former tight end. “From his play and beyond. In an era when the tight end has gone by the wayside in a way, from when he was getting in the league and as he has progressed in the league the tight end has turned into a receiving tight end. They don’t ask tight ends to block anymore and do the things we asked him to do. He easily has the best hands I have been around. He gets open, he wins his matchups. He will do the blocking. He takes pride in blocking. He takes pride in the run game being an extra lineman. When a goal line situation presents itself, and it’s a running situation, he is not coming out because he likes to block. He takes pride in that. A person that takes pride in every aspect of his job makes him special.”
Heath Miller was a rock in the locker room, always lending a helping hand or advice to younger players.
“When it comes to the locker room, when he speaks, you listen,” Roethlisberger said. “He didn’t do it a lot, but when he did everyone listened. Just a guy that always put the team and everyone else ahead of himself. The aspect of his game and persona, everything he did. He was always in meetings early. He was the guy you could count on to do the right thing every time.
“I learned every day from Heath Miller. That is what I told him when I talked to him. It’s going to be hard not to have him around and have another voice in the locker room that cares so much about the team and puts the team first. In a day in sports where there are a lot of selfish people, he is one of the most selfless people and that will be truly missed.
“It will be tough. I guess if you play this game long enough you lose a lot of friends. It was tough last year not having (Brett) Keisel, a close friend of mine. This is just as tough, if not more because he is on my side of the ball. He is an offensive guy I have been around and thrown the ball to so many times. It’s not going to be fun. You are going to miss a guy like that. They don’t make them like him anymore.”
Miller made his retirement decision much like he played the game, quietly and selflessly. Something Roethlisberger knows all too well about him.
“It’s not Heath’s way,” Roethlisberger said. “I knew this was coming so I prepared for it. No one else really did. Selfishly I wish he would get that one last time, that last recognition. I wish that people could prepare for that one last game with Heath, that one last catch from Heath, come out of that tunnel one last time. That is what people want, but that is not who he is as a person.
“Heath is such a selfless person. He doesn’t celebrate, he doesn’t do anything. Any time Heath caught a ball in a big time situation he just kind of flipped the ball. We knew that he was excited. When that happened it got us all excited.
“We are honored to have the chance to play with him, and we will miss him.”
Images Courtesy of Keystone Press