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Big money for Heath Miller

So much for the impending uncapped year keeping deals getting done for players entering the final seasons of their contracts.

Steelers tight end Heath Miller, who would have been a restricted free agent in March 2010 absent a new labor deal, nevertheless reeled in a six-year, $35.3 million deal prior to the final year of his rookie contract.

That’s the kind of money that typically gets paid out when a guy has leverage.  In this case, Miller didn’t.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Miller deal impacts ongoing negotiations for other players (like Leon Washington of the Jets and Braylon Edwards of the Browns) who are entering the final season of a rookie deal and facing possible restricted free agency if there’s an uncapped year in 2010. 

Assuming that it’s not a backloaded deal that the Steelers eventually will renegotiate or terminate, the $5.88 annual average puts Miller at No. 5 among all NFL tight ends.

As we pointed out in connection with the Owen Daniels impasse in Houston, Dallas Clark of the Colts has a $6.9 million annual average, Tampa’s Kellen Winslow is at $6.5 million per year, Tony Gonzalez of the Falcons is at $6.25 million, and the Broncos’ Daniel Graham averages $6 million.

The next guy behind Miller is Jeremy Shockey of the Saints, at $5.1 million.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also points out that Miller received a $12.5 million signing bonus.

We’re not saying the Steelers got fleeced on this one.  But it doesn’t strike us as the same team-friendly deal that the defending champs finagled from Max Starks, who as a franchise player had a lot more leverage than Miller — and who got a lot less money in relation to the market for the left tackle position.

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38 Responses to “Big money for Heath Miller”
  1. lololnpnp says: Jul 30, 2009 8:53 AM

    Starks may have had more leverage due to the franchise designation, but from an overall talent perspective there is no comparison. Heath Miller is a great TE and stays out of trouble/the press. Starks was franchised due to a lack of options, not because they thought he was a top 5 tackle and he knows it. Now I’d have to think this really does help Owen Daniels but we’ll see.

  2. SteelCurtnDee says: Jul 30, 2009 9:23 AM

    Heath deserves that kind of money. He’s probably the best all around TE in the league, and totally a Steelers type player.
    People talk about the Steelers being cheap and never breaking the bank… but really that’s not true. First off they don’t pay big contracts to guys that are over the hill, and second they give a FAIR contract… which is usually less than what’s out there. Miller is a great blocker, above average athleticism, and great hands, and he’s just entering his prime… he would’ve probably been paid top 3 money at the position on the open market.

  3. TheDPR says: Jul 30, 2009 9:31 AM

    Overrated Wahoo.

  4. Cleveland Sucks aka Philly Sewer Rat says: Jul 30, 2009 9:34 AM

    Miller didn’t have leverage? He is the best two-way tight end in the league. I’ll take Heath Miller any day, all the other tight ends you mentioned all glorified recievers, their blocking skills don’t come close to Heath’s.

  5. mborz says: Jul 30, 2009 9:42 AM

    You can go on and on about leverage and other factors, but I when I look at both of these players, their talent levels, and what they’ve contributed at each of their positions, both of their contracts seem right on the money.

  6. ftcsubs says: Jul 30, 2009 9:43 AM

    Starks is a Stop gap… they where never going to pay him big money for long term because he is a band aid…. Heath miller is the most underated TE in the league… he is a better TE than winslow IMO because he is also a great blocking TE… plus he has very good hands. he could be a 1000 yd reciever if they looked for him.. or if they had a line that could block. if we had a O-line thta could protect Ben how good could miller be…..

  7. Stillerz says: Jul 30, 2009 9:47 AM

    Its days like this that make me happy that I was born and raised a Steelers fan and not of some team like the Cowboys, Raiders, Redskins. Great work again Steelers. Now lets get the hardest hitting free safety in the league locked up!!

  8. Joe in Raleigh says: Jul 30, 2009 9:49 AM

    Miller is a stud and deserves every penny. Seriously, when his number is called to block, he blocks. When he gets called to catch, he makes the grab. You don’t hear him complaining like Shockey and others.
    The Steelers didn’t get fleeced, they made a good investment.

  9. Superbelt says: Jul 30, 2009 9:49 AM

    Though they don’t use him as much as other receiving TE’s. Heath is the teams most reliable receiver right now. Doesn’t get behind coverage, but he gets in position and above defenders to be great safety valve for Ben.
    He’s been huge for the team in conversions. Yeah he got huge money for his position, but the drop off from him to the next guy is cavernous.
    His contributions are too important to the offensive integrity to let go.

  10. CKL says: Jul 30, 2009 9:50 AM

    The Steelers do not let good young players go if they have been productive on their squad (which rules out Vrabel). Ever. Hence an early indication that Plax shouldn’t have been touched with a ten foot pole.

  11. thehoodedone says: Jul 30, 2009 9:54 AM

    I guess Heath will now be accused of rape since he’s won 2 super bowls and just signed a big deal. That’s the way it works, right???

  12. wyoff says: Jul 30, 2009 10:29 AM

    As a Steelers fan, I have to say that the Steelers gave up too much for Miller. He’s not a top 5 TE. He may be a top 16 TE, but that’s pushing it.
    Miller is a decent receiver, but he’s a terrible blocker. I don’t know how he’s received this reputation as an excellent blocker, but it’s just not true. Go back and watch him- he’s an outright liability in the run game.
    Miller is a good reciever with nice hands. He can make some big plays in the middle so long as the receivers have drawn coverage. Miller isn’t fast enough or athletic enough to be a primary weapon on his own. He’s not a Tony Gonzalez or Mark Witten.
    The bottom line is that Miller missed a few games last season and was replaced by Matt Spaeth. There really wasn’t much of a drop off from Miller to Spaeth.
    I like Miller. He’s a decent bit player, and he seems like a good guy. He’s just not worth elite money. I hope he goes out and proves me wrong.

  13. wyoff says: Jul 30, 2009 10:39 AM

    Typo in my previous post- I meant the Cowboy’s Jason Witten, not baseball’s hard hitten’ Mark Whiten.

  14. Frank Burns says: Jul 30, 2009 10:40 AM

    As a Steelers fan I have to ask: what the heck is Wyoff smoking, ‘cuz I’d like to get me a load o’ that stuff!
    “Top 16 TE?” Name me the 15 guys in his class.
    Tell me, btw, who laid the crushing BLOCK that sprung Holmes for the big TD against the Ravens in the championship game?
    “Decent bit player?” You gotta be kidding. At least you admit he’s got good hands — yeah, maybe the best pair on the team. Name me 5 times he’s dropped the ball the last couple of seasons.
    Who’s “Mark Witten” btw? I think that says it all about the pecking order of TEs in the league.
    Heath Miller is simply what they call him: “money.”

  15. Frank Burns says: Jul 30, 2009 10:43 AM

    “The bottom line is that Miller missed a few games last season and was replaced by Matt Spaeth. There really wasn’t much of a drop off from Miller to Spaeth.”
    ———————————-
    I saved this one because it’s in a class by itself.
    You mean Matt “No YAC” Spaeth?
    Miller’s one of the best getting yards after the grab — Spaeth catches, then hits the ground immediately. You need to watch more Steelers games, Steeler fan. Seriously, go play back some games with Spaeth, then Miller, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
    Miller’s an elite TE.

  16. big black says: Jul 30, 2009 10:49 AM

    “Mark Witten” hahahah wyoff you suck

  17. SixBurghDude says: Jul 30, 2009 11:12 AM

    YESSS! The NFL’s best all around TE IMHO & def. the most under-rated…Congrats Heath “Money”, Miller Time INDEED!!!
    wyoff says:
    “The bottom line is that Miller missed a few games last season and was replaced by Matt Spaeth. There really wasn’t much of a drop off from Miller to Spaeth.”
    Surely you understand that after making such a comment, no one will pay any attention to anything else you have to post…EXPOSED!
    @ thehoodedone
    Incorrect, but you no doubt will continue to prove your ignorance of all things football with every post!!!

  18. VoxVeritas says: Jul 30, 2009 12:16 PM

    “Miller’s one of the best getting yards after the grab”
    “Mark” Witten was the best TE in the NFL with 390 YAC last season, 19th in the entire NFL. Miller was not in the top 50, behind guys like Witten, Gates, Gonzales, Crumpler, Donald Lee, Cooley, Winslow, and maybe a few more guys since my source only lists the top 50.
    You weren’t seriously elevating Miller to or above Witten’s level when you were talking about pecking order, were you?

  19. wyoff says: Jul 30, 2009 12:20 PM

    Frank Burns-
    1. Miller’s great block in that instance doesn’t negate his poor blocking throughout the season. Notice that your example is a block that came on a pass play, not a run block. At this point in his career, Miller is an overrated blocker. He was part of the reason that the running game faltered this year. After watching the Holmes TD, go back and wath Miller’s run blocking in the game. Prepare to cover your eyes.
    2. 15 TEs? It depends on what you’re looking for. Miller’s not as good of a receiver as the top receiving TEs in the league, and he’s not a premier blocking TE. He’s neither Eric Green nor Mark Bruener- rather, he’s a jack-of-all-trades, master of none type. Here’s a list of 15 that surpass him in one way or another. Not saying that every one of these guys is better than him in every way, but they’re all “in his class.”
    Antonio Gates
    Tony Gonzalez
    Jason Witten
    Dallas Clark
    Owen Daniels
    Daniel Graham
    Greg Olsen
    Todd Heap
    Tony Scheffler
    Anthony Fasano
    Ben Watson
    Jim Kleinsasser
    Bo Scaife
    Zach Miller
    Kevin Boss
    Heath is much better than the Jerame Tuman’s of the world, but he’s clearly elite. He fits somewhere in the middle of this list. Some of these guys are better receivers, some of these guys are better blockers, and Heath’s “total package” of blocking and receiving combined doesn’t give him enough to place him clearly above all of these players. I’d put him near the top if the list were organized by best hands, but in the middle trending to bottom of the list if the list were organized in terms of receiving threat or by blocking skill.
    3. I’m not saying that Spaeth is better than Miller. I’m saying that Miller isn’t drastically better than Spaeth- certainly not tens of millions of dollars better than Spaeth. Spaeth’s RAC is a glaring problem. However, Speath’s blocking is as good or better than Miller’s, and his hands themselves are good. Not in Miller’s class, but good. He’s a viable pass catching TE on a team with plenty of talent in other areas.
    The bottom line is that I’d be more comfortable relying on Spaeth, getting a run blocking, mauler, Bruener-esque type TE, and giving Miller’s money to improve the line and rely on Spaeth than I am with the Steelers giving Miller elite money.
    4. As I said, I meant Jason Witten, not Mark.

  20. Donkeypunch666 says: Jul 30, 2009 12:53 PM

    thats why all those guys on your list have two rings, huh?

  21. Stork says: Jul 30, 2009 12:58 PM

    From mid-June cut to $35 mill deal with $12.5 mill SB? You lost some credibility on that one Florio.

  22. Frank Burns says: Jul 30, 2009 1:06 PM

    Bo Scaife? Zach Miller? Jim Freakin’ Kleinsasser?
    Pardon me while I fall off my chair laughing.
    Guys like “Mark” Witten and Clark are one-dimensional as it gets, awesome receivers, but talk about no blocking skills whatsoever. Yet I don’t year you busting on them.
    Spaeth is THE worst when it comes to blocking — see who’s responsible for Russell getting blown up inside the 5 in the Super Bowl.
    Btw I hear ya on the blocking this year — but you do know Miller had a shoulder problem right? His rookie year he was a BEAST blocking — watch what he does this year.
    Spaeth is good at one thing — being a massive sure handed target in the end zone. That’s it. I’m not comfortable with him for anything else.
    Miller’s contract is 5 years and gets his prime years — by year 3 it’ll be a bargain.

  23. steelberger1 says: Jul 30, 2009 1:22 PM

    Vox says: “Witten was the best TE in the NFL with 390 YAC last season, 19th in the entire NFL. Miller was not in the top 50, behind guys like Witten, Gates, Gonzales, Crumpler, Donald Lee, Cooley, Winslow, and maybe a few more guys since my source only lists the top 50.”
    You are making the common mistake of confusing quantity with quality.
    Witten had more YAC than Miller because he was used in the passing MUCH more than Miller was (by about 33 receptions). However, Miller had a higher AVERAGE YAC, by a significant amount (5.5 to 4.4).
    As a matter of fact, Miller had a higher average YAC than Witten, Gates, Gonzales, etc. There were only 3 TE’s in the league who caught 40+ balls that had a higher average YAC.

  24. Frank Burns says: Jul 30, 2009 2:11 PM

    That’s right, when you run the numbers you see how full o’ crap Vox is. HIGHER YAC average than Witten, got it?
    Heath Miller is the best all-around TE in the game today.

  25. wyoff says: Jul 30, 2009 2:17 PM

    Frank Burns-
    “Guys like “Mark” Witten and Clark are one-dimensional as it gets, awesome receivers, but talk about no blocking skills whatsoever. Yet I don’t year you busting on them.”
    I’m not “busting” on Miller. I think that he’s a good TE. I just don’t think that he’s elite. I think he’s being overrated and overpaid.
    I’m not busting guys like Clark for their blocking because they’re not expected to be good blockers. They’re supposed to be great receivers- that’s their game and that’s what’s expected from them.
    On the other side, guys like Kleinsasser aren’t billed to be great receivers. They’re blockers, and they’re very good at it.
    My problem with Miller is that he’s outclassed as a receiver by guys like Clark, he’s outclassed as a blocker by guys like Kleinsasser, yet he’s getting paid as if he were both a top tier receiver and a top tier blocker. He’s not. Right now he’s basically a second-tier receiving TE with great hands- tough to bring down, but not fast enough to get reliably open or to draw significant coverage.
    I hope that Miller’s blocking decline is solely attributable to his shoulder. I agree with you that he was a much better blocker as a rookie. However, he was about 20 pounds heavier then, wasn’t he? I think Miller’s performance as a rookie created a reputation that he isn’t living up to.
    All this said, I do like Miller. He’s clutch- he usually has his best games in the playoffs- and he’s better than our former zero-tool TEs of the Tuman / Cushing ilk. I just hope that he can return to his old self in the running game. With a contract of this size, he’d better.

  26. rusH1023 says: Jul 30, 2009 2:28 PM

    When is Ben Rapelisberger going to get a big contract? Man, don’t get him mad; he might rape someone else. Or go on a rape-rampage or something… I shiver to think.

  27. joekrz says: Jul 30, 2009 2:57 PM

    Florio,
    You nor Wyoff have a very good understanding of the game. I urge you to watch Heath Miller sometime. He’s an outstanding blocker. He’s got great hands and has very good YAC. He’s one of the keys to the Steelers success. He’s easily in the top five tight ends.
    Also, Matt Spaeth can’t block. He should be cut.

  28. PittsburghPope says: Jul 30, 2009 3:00 PM

    I agree with wyoff. I like Heath Miller, he’s a good football player, but he is overrated by my fellow steeler’s fans. I think wyoff underrates his pass catching ability but is spot on regarding run blocking. Heath Miller fails to either set the edge or cut off the back side on 4 out of every 5 running plays and has shown no improvement the past few years. I do not understand why so many tight ends in the NFL are one dimensional, maybe an argument could be made that the “true” tight end position is the hardest to play outside quarterback.

  29. SixBurghDude says: Jul 30, 2009 3:01 PM

    rusH1023,
    Right after ShadyBrady does, after he knocks his next one up (alledgedly, or so she says, afterall she ain’t no dummy, with that contract he signed, cause based on all the gay posing he does for MetroSexual mags, dude no doubt takes it in the seat), then dumps her after she spawns another of his BASTARDS!

  30. SixBurghDude says: Jul 30, 2009 4:28 PM

    wyoff & all other MONEY haters:
    Below is a list of not only the 15 TE’S you laughingly mention, as all being equal to or better than Heath “money” Miller, but also a few others that I threw in as well.
    Based on % of catches made which resulted in either 1st down or TD…all numbers are career avg. (min. of 2.5 rec./game).
    Heath Miller……74.4%
    Clark……74.2%
    Cooley……69.1%
    Daniels……72.5%
    Gates……82.2%
    Gonzalez……73.5%
    Scheffler……57.7%
    Shockey……67.2%
    Winslow……62.6%
    Witten……62.9%
    Z.Miller……66.0% (only 2 yr. avg.)
    Olsen……61.3 (only 2 yr. avg.)
    Boss……88.1% (only 1.5 rec./game)
    Fasano……71.0% (only 1.3 rec./game)
    Graham……70.5% (only 1.9 rec./game)
    Kleinsasser……49.4% (only 1.2 rec./game)
    B.Miller……66.0% (only 1.8 rec./game)
    Scaiffe……78.5% (only 2.4 rec./game)
    By my count Heath Miller ranks, at least in the top handful in QUALITY grabs & is undoubtedly a SUPERIOR blocker to all but a handful of the 17 TE’s analyzed.

  31. rusH1023 says: Jul 30, 2009 5:20 PM

    @ ShittsBurghDude
    I can’t imagine why you’re visualizing Brady taking it and giving it so much. Little strange.

  32. VoxVeritas says: Jul 30, 2009 5:45 PM

    Boss……88.1% (only 1.5 rec./game)
    Fasano……71.0% (only 1.3 rec./game)
    Graham……70.5% (only 1.9 rec./game)
    Kleinsasser……49.4% (only 1.2 rec./game)
    B.Miller……66.0% (only 1.8 rec./game)
    Scaiffe……78.5% (only 2.4 rec./game)
    No mention that Miller only snags 2.7 receptions per game? Seems to me that Miller is closer to the above list in that regard than your other list. Maybe one day he’ll break 48 catches and 566 yards.
    Clark……3.1 rec/game
    Cooley……3.9
    Daniels……3.6
    Gates……4.3
    Gonzalez……4.8
    Scheffler……2.5
    Shockey……4.4
    Winslow……4.9
    Witten……4.5

  33. Vandilay Industries says: Jul 30, 2009 6:49 PM

    Vox, you continue to amuse all of us with your undending ignorance day after day.
    It must really blow to be a Cowboys fan and be deluded year after year.
    Whomever said that Witten was the very definition of one-dimensional was spot on.

  34. tleg81 says: Jul 30, 2009 8:21 PM

    WOW I am a Steelers Fan and love the fact we locked up a great tight end, but geez……you guys here are crazy.
    Where and how long does it take you to look up stats like above? These guys are freakin tight ends……They are very important in thier own right to each team. There are some good ones to their team and some bad ones. The Idiot that says Heath is a bad blocker is a F-in RETARD.
    For the record, since the steelers drafted Heath they have won 2 superbowls. His impact on the steelers is invaluable. He is a major contributer to the Steelers and thats why they pay him that money. Hines is not the best reciever in the league but we pay him because he is good for the STEELERS. Ben isnt the best QB in the league but we pay him because he is good for US. Stop trying to rate people against people…..its all relative.

  35. SixBurghDude says: Jul 30, 2009 9:56 PM

    Vox,
    Once again your brain is obscurred by quantity in lieu of QUALITY! How’s that fantasy mock draft shaping up sport? Vox in some language is no doubt defined as a TOOL!!!

  36. Darth Ringo says: Jul 30, 2009 11:10 PM

    As a Virginia boy Steeler fan I love this signing!!
    Heath Miller is one of the best TEs in the league.. he’s not a WR and it’s dumb to rate him that way (a la Gonzalez, Winslow, Witten), he played through a shoulder, he blocks (while not in the class of Bruener, as wyoff indicated) and he doesn’t drop passes. The guy is valuable a team player.
    What, you’re worried the Steelers are going to run out of money?
    Now get Ryan Clark resigned!! That man is vital to the secondary.

  37. ernie cohen says: Jul 31, 2009 10:35 AM

    Basically, it’s a good signing (if not economical) as long as there is no salary cap for the next several years. If there is only one uncapped year, PIT might regret this pretty soon as they run out of cap space.

  38. Breezy says: Aug 1, 2009 4:17 PM

    So glad to see him get the big money. I bet he has the most yards after contact of any TE in the game. Well deserved. (I’m also glad cuz I just got his jersey :)

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