I found it a bit laughable when the Pittsburgh Steelers were linked to New Orleans Saints free-agent tight end Jimmy Graham a few weeks ago as that has next-to-zero chance of happening.
Before Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and his staff start drooling over Graham or any other tight end on the market, they first have to decide what to do with their own.
Heath Miller will be entering the final year of his contract, and as things stand right now he counts $9.5 million against the 2014 salary cap.
That’s money the Steelers could certainly use to improve in other areas and while Miller is certainly a candidate to be released as a salary-cap casualty, which is something I just don’t buy into.
Sure, from the standpoint that Miller is 31 and coming off a serious knee injury that makes some sense, but extending Miller’s contract makes much more sense and will help free up more money in the short term.
The Steelers are projected to be in red by $12.47 million dollars entering this offseason. Restructuring Miller’s contract would likely cut that $9.5 million cap figure in half while keeping him team control for the foreseeable future.
The Steelers’ solution to their yearly cap problems remains to renegotiate contracts, pushing guaranteed payments further down the road.
Judging by past history, I would be shocked if Miller isn’t extended very soon.
Miller came back from his knee injury and finished the 2013 season with 58 receptions for 593 yards and one touchdown. However, while he’s usually a dominant blocker in the run game, the veteran didn’t have his best season as Pro Football Focus has Miller rated as the No. 51 tight end out of 64 qualifying players.
I’m willing to attribute that to the fact that he was coming off knee surgery and feel that Miller will be back to his old self in 2014. Not everyone is like Adrian Peterson and can return from ACL surgery to full strength in less than a year.
But that still doesn’t mean it’s not a risky move for the Steelers. His age and subpar season by his standards make it a gamble alone.
That being said, extending Miller makes a lot of sense, but so does addressing the tight end position in the draft this year.
I was completely in favor of the Steelers selecting Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert in last year’s draft and eventually they will need to look toward the future.
But with all of the needs on this team at the moment, Miller is still a reliable option for the next couple of seasons and should be rewarded with a new contract.