Will Steelers ever be able to find a replacement for Heath Miller?

Heath Miller #83 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Heath Miller #83 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Vance McDonald is officially retired, but the Steelers are still searching for the next Heath Miller. Will they ever find him? 

With the recent announcement made by Vance McDonald that he has decided to ‘hang up the cleats’ once and for all, it made me ponder the answer to this question: ‘ Will the Steelers ever be able to find a replacement for Heath Miller?’

I suppose the answer to that question can be viewed from two perspectives; one being from a possibility standpoint and the other being from a probability standpoint.  When we made the trade with the San Francisco 49ers for McDonald in 2017, I was cautiously optimistic that we had found a TE who was cut from the same mold as Miller.

Both McDonald and Miller were tough, hard-nosed tight ends who were exceptional blockers and reliable pass-catchers.  Neither one had track and field speed, but both had above average ‘football’ speed.  If either of them made a catch in the open field, they were hard to tackle and usually ran over a defender or two before ultimately being stopped.

We will not compare McDonald’s Steelers career to Miller’s Steelers career as there really is no comparison.  I think when we look back on McDonald’s Steelers career, we will view it as one that was full of promise but may have been cut short.

The Steelers will need to keep searching for Miller’s replacement

In his four seasons with us, according to Pro Football Reference, McDonald played in 53 games, starting 47 of them.  He finished his Steelers career with 117 receptions for 1,170 yards and 8 TDs.  I often wonder if McDonald was underutilized in our offense.

Yes, he was the blocking TE, not the receiving TE, but that didn’t mean that he could not have been more of receiving threat than he was, but that ship has sailed. I am disappointed that the Steelers seemingly relegated him to the aforementioned role of the blocking TE; however, the running game was much more effective when he played than when he was unavailable because of injury.

So where do the Steelers go from here?  If you look objectively at the current depth at the TE position, there may not be a McDonald on the roster.  I think it’s fair to say that our offense runs much better on a formula of having a blocking TE to complement the receiving TE.  Right now, we have a lot of question marks at the TE position.

To circle back to the question that was posed at the outset, is it possible for the Steelers to find a replacement for Heath Miller?  Sure, anything is possible.  Is it probable that the Steelers will find a replacement for Heath Miller?  I’m not sure.

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What I am sure of is this:  McDonald quickly became a fan-favorite and epitomized what it meant to be a Steeler. We can only hope that another McDonald is somewhere on the horizon, then we can further hope that the next McDonald will blossom into the next Miller.