Heath Miller / Inside Slant
Heath Miller hopes to put the tight end back into the Steelers passing offense after a decade in which the position served virtually as a third tackle.
The Steelers first-round draft choice overcame offseason sports hernia surgery to participate fully in the team's spring drills that ended June 9. He looked stiff and rusty in the early weeks but more fluid as the drills progressed.
Last season, three Steelers tight ends caught 17 passes, led by Jerame Tuman with nine. By drafting the 6-5, 256-pound Miller, Pittsburgh indicated it plans to give its tight end more than blocking assignments in 2005.
Miller caught 144 passes in four years at Virginia and scored 20 touchdowns.
"If you have a guy that can run down the middle of the field and can block at the point of attack in the run game, it certainly gives you an advantage," said offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, a former NFL tight end. "I think he has the ability to stretch the field."
Miller got the feeling from his spring workouts that the Steelers will use him as a receiver.
"The tight end is out on a number of routes here," he said. "I just have to learn the offense. I think I gradually learned more as the minicamp went on. I tried to get through it and show I'm comfortable on a football field."
The loss of 6-5 1/2 wide receiver Plaxico Burress to the New York Giants in free agency should give Miller even more stature in Pittsburgh's passing game. Hines Ward, at 6 feet, is the tallest of their top three receivers.