Ain’t No Sunshine: Heath Miller retires.

imageBill Wither’s mournful tune seems appropriate here. As our talented founder, Momma Rollett, said, we finally have news, but it’s not good. At best, Heath’s leaving is bittersweet.

When Little Darlin’ broke the news to me, I was surprised. I’ve got to think we all were. There were no rumors, murmurs or foreshadowing. Nobody dared whisper “Heath’s losing it,” mostly because it wasn’t true. While approaching the autumn of his career, Heath had yet to show any real significant erosion of skill, nor did his body begin to betray him.

Perhaps we could have seen it coming, if only because this exit is so very Heath-like. Three of the most used adjectives appearing in articles featuring this fine young man are nice, classy and humble. His retirement announcement was nice, classy and humble. Like Heath, it was quiet and reserved.

There was no victory lap. No hanging on until the front office had to tell him it was time to go. No serious injury forcing the inevitable choice. Heath walked away while he could. He’s still young and healthy at 33; seemingly with no regrets.

The decision may not have been too easy. The Steelers appear poised to make a Super Bowl run, with our best shots coming this year or next. If Heath did not hear the siren call of another Lombardi trophy, he must have give it more than a fleeting thought. Yet, if he had any reservations about leaving with some gas in the tank, there was not a hint of it in his statement:

Today, I informed the Steelers of my plans to retire. I realize how extremely fortunate and grateful I am to have spent my entire career as a Pittsburgh Steeler. I would like to thank the Rooney Family, Kevin Colbert, Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin, James Daniel and the rest of the Steelers organization for giving me the opportunity to live out my childhood dream. I will always cherish and value the special bonds that I formed with my teammates. It was truly an honor for me to take the field with them. I am also appreciative of my entire family and all of the coaches who helped me along the way. Additionally, I want to thank Steelers Nation, the best fans in the NFL! Lastly, I owe the biggest thank you to my wife, Katie, and our four children for their unwavering support.

Perhaps Heath could have played another year or two. Maybe, there were more post season appearances for the best Steelers TE ever. Then again, bad things can happen to a 34 year old football player, but I’m not sure Heath even thinks that way. He’s special and he’s different. Whatever motivated his timing, we’ll never know. Heath is a private guy and he did it his way in his own time.

No. 83 played his entire career with Big Ben as his quarterback. The two were very close, coming to Pittsburgh a year apart. Roethlisberger was the Steelers number one pick in 2004, Miller was the first pick in 2005.

In a fine article by the Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook, we learn that Heath told Ben of his plans in November. Ben was sworn to secrecy; it’s what Heath wanted – no fanfare.

Ben considers Heath his best teammate ever:

“No doubt he was,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve had a lot of great teammates, a lot of guys I could put up there. But what Heath personified as a player and a teammate? There’s never been another like him. I’ve never known a more unselfish player.”

“I’d ask him if he was open on a play and he would say ‘no’. Other receivers say they are open on every play, but he never did. Then, I would look at the film and he’d be wide open. He always told me he didn’t want me to have to worry about him.”

Todd Haley said

[Miller is maybe] the best player I’ve ever coached. Just all around. There have been guys with more talent, but to be with him on a day-to-day basis and see his football intelligence …

Heath is always where he’s supposed to be. That’s so important to a quarterback. Ben trusted him. Even in protection things and the run game. If a call is wrong, Heath makes it right.

For me, the highest praise came from Coach Tomlin:

He is the type of person that I want my boys to be. He has inspired me in that way. When I look at him and think about his body of work personally and professionally, as a dad you think about boy how could I raise my sons to be like Heath Miller, to project the things and values he projects?

I’m happy for Heath Miller. He’s done it his own humble way. His presence, leadership and example will be missed.

Like Rebecca, I’m whining about trying to write interesting articles through the dark days of the offseason. What’s that? Oh, it’s Bill Withers again. This is not that last you’ll hear of “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

In addition, I’m trotting out a new twist called “My Two Cents.” One thing I never run out of is opinions. Just ask Little Darlin’. And while “My Two Cents” may lack sense at times, it may give you something new to read, something to discuss, or just something that makes you think Rox is an idiot. After being a litigator for most of my career, I can assure you that any aspersions you make just might sound familiar. We’ll start a little slow, and see what happens:

My Two Cents

  • The allegations of Peyton Manning’s sordid escapades at the University of Tennessee continue to be, in my opinion, under-reported. I’m less concerned about the initial assault than the concerted effort of the Manning family to crush and ruin the victim, Jamie Naughright. The Post-Gazette’s Gene Collier gives his take on the status of Manning’s legacy— “The Peyton Manning Legend Continues to Unravel.”
  • I’m happy Tony Dungy was elected to the Hall of Fame and that he has selected former Steelers’ safety Donnie Shell to present him. Another Steeler in Canton. My gut tells me that Dungy’s football resume, while impressive, is borderline for the Hall. But as a human being, he’s gold. It’s nice that a guy who defied the hard part guy stereotype for NFL coaches is celebrated.
  • If you’re looking for a good read, try Teresa Varley’s article on Joey Porter, his family and the challenges of raising their autistic daughter, Jasmine. She presents another facet of Joey, a man who becomes more admirable, the more I learn of him.

10 comments

  • Nice write up on Heath. I guess the gut punch feeling of his sudden retirement is finally wearing off. He was an ultimate Steeler, and we will be proud of him for a very long time to come.

    In regards to your two cents:

    Totally agree on the Manning situation. How does everyone seem to forget that his entire family has tried to strong arm their way to greatness? They forced the Chargers into a trade on draft day because they didn’t want Eli out there (granted it worked out great for the Giants, and the Chargers didn’t get a bad deal either). All Peyton does is in his best interests: costing the team more in cap space this year for him to come back, shamelessly plug his business ventures on the Superbowl field (hugged Papa John, plugged Budweiser, for which he owns distributors in Louisiana), won’t retire. Now, I thought it was in bade taste for the sideline reporter to ask him if he was retiring. That was definitely a Jim Nantz/trophy stage question. Let him go out on the stage with all eyes on him with the trophy in his hand versus in relative anonymity on the sideline. BUT, he couldn’t even do it then. Instead, he repeated his plug for Budweiser and repeated much of what he said to the sideline reporter. Some people I was talking to after the game was giving him props for being so classy and team first. I asked them if they realized he likely wanted to let things stew so that we would talk about him more, then he can have a great big press conference all to himself about it, and the whole thing can be all about Peyton’s greatness. Peyton is a great QB, no doubt. He also seems to be the most selfish and arrogant player that I can think of. How many times has he called out his teammates after losses? Quite a few. Now, all of the story is coming out about his college years. I do say that some leeway is usually required when speaking of one’s youthful exploits, but this seems like much more than that. We simply cannot brush Dr. Nauright off as the recipient of some mooning gone afoul. It is obvious that there is something very dark hiding in this particular closet, else why would Peyton settle out of court? If he knew he was 100% innocent, and could provide witnesses to verify that, he certainly has the resources have taken the matter to court and have his name cleared. While I do acknowledge that a settlement gets it swept under the rug much more quickly, I’m not settling if I know I didn’t do anything.

    I always thought that Dungy is looked at through different lenses that many others. Yes, he was a good coach. No, I don’t think he was great. He did build 2 Superbowl winning teams. Yes, Gruden won in Tampa with Dungy’s team. BUT, Gruden did what Dungy didn’t do: win. I do place a boulder-sized grain of salt next to Gruden’t Superbowl win because it was against the Raiders team that he coached the year before. It shouldn’t too difficult to beat the team you know everything about.

    I haven’t read the article on Porter yet, but I will. As a parent of a special needs child, the average person has no idea the difficulties we have. Even with his resources that dwarf mine by tens of millions, it is still no easy task.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really interesting thoughts on Manning. He has carefully crafted (either with or without advice) an appealing, “aw, shucks” image in recent years, and it’s odd to watch it all unraveling. It just goes to show that how we think we can “know” players when we don’t even know the depths of our own hearts would be amusing if it didn’t have some unfortunate consequences.

      And bless you and your special needs child. There is nothing more challenging in life than raising a special needs child, and it can really be draining. I hope you have a good support group (meaning family, friends, social services if necessary) around you. Stay strong!

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      • Even in this day of 24/7 sports coverage, it’s amazing how little we know about even high profile players.

        I knew nothing of the Peyton Manning story before the Wednesday after the Super Bowl. How is that?

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        • Well, it would seem the Manning family has worked quite hard for it to stay in the past. I don’t think it would have ever come out if it weren’t for the new lawsuit…

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      • Thanks for the kind words, Rebecca. My wife and I are a great team (if I may be so bold to say). Unfortunately, the family doesn’t really support the way that one would think. My mom is wonderful to us, but lives in Okinawa, so she only gets to see us sparingly.

        With Manning, and some other players in the league, I get the feeling that we think they’re great, humble, wonderful for the league because we’re always told that they are. My NFL disease began right before the 2004 draft that saw the Manning family pull what they did for Eli. As a burgeoning addict, I couldn’t believe that one family could have the moxie to pull something like that. It’s different when a player choses not to go play for the team that drafted them, and go on to something else (like Bo Jackson). I have nothing ill to say of Eli. I think that he has been a pretty stand up guy. It’s just always bothered me to watch Peyton’s antics on the field when receivers drop a pass or fumble the ball. I remember him basically calling out his teammates for playoff losses when he’s the one throwing the interceptions. You can read in his body language when he’s trying to take the blame for a loss, but it’s just not believable. Ben, Palmer, Brees, Rivers, guys like that I actually believe that they feel bad for their poor play (well, not always Ben! ;)). BUT, he sure has that “Yea, I just did that” attitude about him after a big win. Peyton has just always come off as a big phony, but the media loves him for his pedigree and his talents, so he’s always trumped up to be some sort of heroic legend that I just don’t think that he is.

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      • I met him at a bar at UT when he was still in school. He was a jerk. I didn’t know who he was until my buddy I was visiting told me.

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  • With Manning, it’s clear we don’t know all the bad stuff. With Joey, I didn’t know the good. Little darlin’ and I were discussing that during the Super Bowl pregame show. It’s amazing how much crap was broadcast, with few human interest stories. Many of the NFL players do a lot of charity work and a lot of nice things for sick kids which don’t get recognized. I put that on the network and the NFL.

    Thanks to flight line for the nice comments. God bless you and your family. I join Rebecca in wishing you strength and support in caring for your child.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter King used to have a good section in his MMQB article that would detail good work done by players that people don’t know a lot about. Showed how a lot of these guys, even the lower round picks, give back to their communities.

      Thanks for the thoughts about my son. He’s a hell of a kid, and we’ll get him to where he needs to be.

      Liked by 1 person

  • My first thought after I heard this was, has anyone checked on Rebecca?
    Now I’m back from vacation of no WiFi and see she’s OK so I can start my official morning of one of the great but unsung (fanticy football) NFL players.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughts for my welfare. It’s tough, but I survived the retirements of Potsie, Brett Keisel, Hines Ward, and perhaps the toughest of all, Troy, so I know I can get through this : )

      Like

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