This is the next in a series that look at every position on offense and defense with training camp approaching. The next look is at tight end.
Returning starter: Heath Miller. The trusty veteran missed just two games despite coming back from a torn ACL, and he caught 54 passes for 593 yards and a touchdown. Miller should be better in 2014 after participating in offseason practices as well as training camp.
New faces: Rob Blanchflower. The Steelers drafted the UMass product in the seventh round and he has a good chance of making the 53-man roster despite four tight ends returning from last season.
On the bubble: David Paulson. The 2012 seventh-round pick has caught just 13 passes for 153 yards in two seasons, and he is an average blocker at best. Paulson and Michael Palmer could battle for one roster spot, with special teams making the difference.
By the numbers: The Steelers averaged 115.3 rushing yards in the four games that Miller and Matt Spaeth played together last season, much better than their season rushing average of 86.4 yards.
Did you know: Miller is one of only six players in Steelers history to accumulate at least 5,000 career receiving yards. He is one of just five players with at least 40 touchdown catches and the only Steelers tight end to achieve that feat.
Quotable: “We’ve got new faces, but from what I’ve seen they’re all more than capable of getting the job done and it’s just a matter of who is going to be out there doing it. It doesn’t matter who it is, I think we’re going to have capable guys out there.” – Miller on the new addition to the Steelers’ passing game.
Outlook: Miller, entering his 10th NFL season, is still one of the best all-around tight ends in the NFL as well as a favorite target of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The 6-foot-4, 256-pounder had been in the midst of his best season in 2012 before tearing his right ACL in the Steelers’ next-to-last game. The Steelers need Miller to re-establish himself as a similar threat this season with Spaeth more of a blocking tight end. Having Miller and Spaeth together for an entire season could be big considering the success the Steelers have had running the ball when both tight ends are in the game. Starting fullback Will Johnson will play more tight end this season, and he could provide some production as a pass catcher.