Heath Miller: Quiet Riot

The Steelers' All-Pro, all-class tight end lets his play do the talking.




Photo by Mike Fabus/Pittsburgh Steelers
 

 

Heath Miller doesn’t like to talk about himself. But ask anyone else about him, and you’ll get an earful. In Swords Creek, Va., a tiny mining town just 40 miles from the Kentucky border, everyone has a favorite story.

For Doug Hubbard, Miller’s former football coach at Honaker High School, it’s the one about the dirt snowball. In 2000, Miller was the Honaker Tigers’ star quarterback when tensions started to boil over during a state playoff game. Miller just completed a crucial first down to his wide receiver, who was slammed hard onto the turf. So hard, in fact, that Miller’s teammate picked a clump of dirt and grass out of his face mask and whipped it at the opposing defender to taunt him.

When the receiver returned to the huddle, Hubbard recalls, Miller turned to him and said softly and simply, “If you ever pull something like that again, you’ll never get another pass from me.”

“That was the kind of leader he was,” Hubbard says. “There would be times when we ran the option and Heath could have just strolled right into the end zone, but instead, he tossed the ball back to a teammate and blocked for them just so they could score.”

Even after converting to tight end at the University of Virginia and going on to win the John Mackey Award (given to the college football’s best at the position), plus two Super Bowl rings and a trip to the Pro Bowl with the Steelers, Miller hasn’t forgotten home. Every year since being drafted in 2005, he used his Reebok endorsement money to buy cleats for the entire Honaker football team.

“I’m not sure Heath even understands how much that meant to our kids,” Hubbard says. “I see students that don’t even follow football walking around the hallways of the school wearing Heath’s No. 83 jersey.”

For Hubbard, Miller’s character evokes memories of Steelers legend Jack Lambert, who on the outside may seem nothing like the mild-mannered tight end. “Chuck Noll once made the comment that Lambert was a defender of what is right in the world,” Hubbard says. “And I think that statement is the best way to sum up what Heath is all about.”

 

PM: Be honest. What’s harder: blocking Ray Lewis or keeping your 2-year-old son entertained?
HM: Oh gosh, my son is all over the place right now. When I come through the door every day, he doesn’t even say hello to me—he immediately goes and finds a ball. He holds it up and says, “ball.” That’s one of the few words he can say. When I’m home, I’m chasing him and throwing balls around the house all day.

Do you have to suffer through any kids’ TV shows?
Absolutely. “Yo Gabba Gabba” is the favorite. Actually, we went to the [live-action] “Yo Gabba Gabba” show in Pittsburgh. LaMarr Woodley and some of the other guys took their kids, too, and they got up on stage and started dancing with the crew. It was pretty entertaining.

Why didn’t you get up on stage?
I didn’t want to ruin the experience for my son.

Who is your closest friend on the team?
Off the field, it’s Brett Keisel.

Did you encourage Brett to grow that magnificent beard?
No, but I bought him a beard comb a few weeks ago for that thing. He needs to use it.

What’s his secret? Does he borrow Troy Polamalu’s Head & Shoulders conditioner?
I hope so. I’m not trying to get close enough to him to see if it stinks or not.

When you came out of college, scouts had you pegged as a pass-catching tight end whose only weakness was blocking. Now, you’re arguably the best blocking tight end in the NFL. How did that happen?
I was always pretty confident in my ability to block, but the longer I’ve been in this league, the more I’ve realized that hard work is the way you stick around. Every year, you see so many talented guys come and go. I take pride in doing whatever I’m asked to help the team win.

Being in the trenches also has its drawbacks. Troy has expressed concern about the serious effects of concussions. Does it ever worry you?
Yeah, certainly. The reports coming out about the long-term effects you have from this game definitely make you think twice when you go home and look at your son. I want to be around to see the person my son grows up to [be] as an adult. It’s a tough situation that we’re all trying to educate ourselves about. I know this game won’t last forever.

What do you want Steelers fans to remember about you at the end of your career?
Hopefully that I gave everything I had to the team. And that I was respected not only as a player, but also as a person.

 

Favorite restaurant in the 'Burgh: Any steakhouse.

Most-played song on your iPod: Anything by Pearl Jam.

Worst locker-room DJ: Ziggy Hood. It's the same tunes every time.

Favorite YouTube video of the moment: The little kid lip syncing to Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."

Biggest fear: Heights.

Hidden talent: Drawing.

Most-memorable block: Willie Parker's 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Sunday in the Strip: 17 Photos That Capture the Neighborhood Perfectly

Sunday in the Strip: 17 Photos That Capture the Neighborhood Perfectly

A visit to Pittsburgh's Strip District is almost like going back in time, but in the best way possible. When you’re there you don’t feel the modern day rush, it’s just relaxed.
Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

Mike Feinberg Company Says Goodbye to Pittsburgh

After 60 years of supplying Pittsburgh oddities and party favors, the staff of Feinberg’s in the Strip District says they’ll miss the love the city has shown them.
Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

If you’re on the hunt for Friday night plans with a purpose, consider sleeping outside to benefit those in Pittsburgh who have to spend every night on the streets.
The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

More than 80 years after its demise was erroneously reported, the David McCullough Bridge still stands as an engineering and architectural highlight among the city’s many spans.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Sunday in the Strip: 17 Photos That Capture the Neighborhood Perfectly

Sunday in the Strip: 17 Photos That Capture the Neighborhood Perfectly

A visit to Pittsburgh's Strip District is almost like going back in time, but in the best way possible. When you’re there you don’t feel the modern day rush, it’s just relaxed.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

It's the third year running for the concept, which was created by Simon Huntley of Pittsburgh's Small Farm Central.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

The one-of-a-kind night of bingo, trivia and madcap monologues returns in a new spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

The Hanson Brothers and other stars of the classic hockey film will return to Johnstown this weekend for a 40th anniversary celebration.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Chalk It Up

Chalk It Up

Doodle while you dine, or let your imagination run wild, with chalkboard placemats from Pittsburgh-based Chalk Lots.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Breaking down what we know and only think we know about the 2017 Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments