View Full Version : On the Steelers: Just where will Nickel 'end' up?

09-25-2011, 01:09 AM
On the Steelers: Just where will Nickel 'end' up?
Sunday, September 25, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The National Football League announced this week that Heath Miller, with 10 more receptions, will become the first Steelers tight end with 300 in his career.
Not so fast, say the Steelers. Elbie Nickel caught 329 passes and he made both of their all-time teams at tight end, the one marking their 50th anniversary and the one marking their 75th.
"I've heard of him," said Miller, and he will not deny Nickel the record just because the NFL says so. "I know he played tight end.''
Nickel played (1947-57) in an era when there were generally no such designations as tight ends and wide receivers. There were ends and, as it developed, then a split end and later a flanker. ProFootballReference.com lists Nickel under wide receivers but not as a wide receiver, but as an "E," which is how he is listed on the Steelers all-time roster.
The Steelers, though, have long considered him a tight end, so Miller will not be the first to hit 300 in their eyes. When it happens, though, it nevertheless will be an accomplishment as their second tight end to do so and the first in the Super Bowl era.
"I don't really pay attention to numbers, to be honest with you,'' Miller said. "I just try to focus on what my job is each and every week and do what I can."
Two years ago, that included catching more passes in one season than any tight end in Steelers history, including Nickel. He had 75 in 2009. Eric Green caught 63 in 1993 and Nickel 62 in 1953. Nickel, though, holds the unofficial team record for tight ends in one season by averaging 5.2 receptions per game in 1953 to Miller's 4.7 in 2009.
Miller's not about milestones and, like Mark Bruener before him, he understands the scheme of things with the Steelers offense -- that tight ends are expected to block first. This year, he's doing it a little more from the backfield.
"I enjoy doing that. It's different," Miller said. "You see the defense a little differently. It's new and exciting."

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