Roethlisberger rushed to welcome 'Big Money'
At 6-foot-5, tight end Heath Miller will be a favorite receiving target.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Heath Miller's cell phone rang minutes after the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him, and the caller was someone very familiar with how Miller's life will unfold over the next few months.
Turns out Big Ben wanted to be the first teammate to talk to the player nicknamed Big Money.
"I think that speaks volumes about his character and I'm anxious to be able to play with him for many years, hopefully," Miller said Monday, relating his first conversation with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "He just welcomed me to the team, told me he was happy to have me as a teammate."
One of Roethlisberger's concerns after 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress left Pittsburgh to sign with the Giants last month was having some tall targets -- no doubt because the Steelers' top three receivers are relatively small.
New receiving options
The Steelers gave him exactly that by drafting the 6-foot-5 Miller, one of the most surehanded Division I-A tight ends in years at Virginia, and 6-4 Fred Gibson, a productive receiver at Georgia and a fourth-round pick.
Asked if he thought choosing these two easy-to-find receivers would make Roethlisberger happy, coach Bill Cowher said, "I really don't care. The bottom line is we helped the football team. I think we have created some very competitive situations."
Miller, as the No. 30 overall pick, figures to get a signing bonus less than half the $9 million Roethlisberger got last year as the No. 11 pick.
Not that Miller is visibly worrying about money right now -- he's rushing to finish up courses and graduate, and fit in another visit to Pittsburgh for the Steelers' May 6-8 minicamp.
Miller went through the usual jersey-fitting ceremony Monday and he also grabbed a Steelers cap for his high school coach in Swords Creek, Va., population 400.
It may seem to Miller once he arrives in training camp that there's nearly that many players there, but he is hopeful of helping the Steelers right away -- especially since 2004 starter Jerame Tuman caught only nine passes.
But Miller didn't display the I'm-here-and-I'm-playing-now attitude Roethlisberger did on his first post-draft visit to Pittsburgh a year ago.
"I realize it's a different level," said Miller, who is expected to give the Steelers their best receiving threat at tight end since Eric Green in the early 1990s.
"The NFL's full of great athletes. I have to raise my level of game in every aspect to be competitive and to be successful here."
A sports hernia injury bothered Miller most of last season and may have scared off some NFL teams before the draft. But he was cleared by Steelers' doctors, and director of football operations Kevin Colbert said he wouldn't have been drafted if his health remained an issue.
Steelers linebacker Kendrell Bell missed most of last season with a sports hernia, and cornerback Deshea Townsend needed a postseason operation for the same injury.
"Obviously, there was a concern with the injury but I'm confident I'll be back 100 percent soon," Miller said. "At this point, I'm doing everything -- agilities [drills], running routes, lifting weights. I'm just not up to 100 percent yet but I'm well on my way."
The Steelers signed 12 non-drafted free agents on Monday, including former Washington fullback Zach Tuiasosopo, the son of former Seahawks fullback and first-round pick Manu Tuiasosopo.
Also signing were Central Florida wide receiver Tavaris Capers, Wisconsin offensive tackle Morgan Davis, Northern Illinois guard Jake Verstraete, Michigan State linebacker Ronald Stanley, Cincinnati linebacker Andre Frazier, Georgia linebacker Arnold Harrison, Arkansas defensive tackle Elliott Harris, Bowling Green kicker Shaun Suisham, North Carolina long snapper Greg Warren, Shippensburg running back John Kuhn and Tiffin wide receiver Nate Washington.
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