Now I see what Joey Porter meant when he said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger abuses his power and uses it for him.
In all seriousness, in news that’s pretty minor except for the fact that I have a problem with it, Zach Gentry, a tight end the Steelers just selected in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, said recently that he was asked by Roethlisberger to not wear his college number—No. 83—as a Steeler. This request by Roethlisberger was made as a little ‘shout out’ to Heath Miller, a good friend of Roethlisberger’s and arguably the greatest tight end in Steelers history.
In fairness to Roethlisberger, I’ve had actual conversations with people—both on social media and in person—who think the Steelers should unofficially retire Miller’s old number because they hold him in such high regard.
I get that, but much like Roethlisberger, fans are thinking with a “now” mentality with regards to Miller. Sure, he was a great tight end, as his 592 career receptions clearly illustrate, but I’m not so sure Miller was even the greatest No. 83 in team history.
For my money, that would be receiver Louis Lipps, a childhood hero of mine who the Steelers drafted in the first round of the 1984 NFL Draft. Like with “Heeeeeeeeathhhhh!” the fans soon began screaming “Louuuuuuuuuu!” whenever Lipps made a great play. That started pretty much in the first game of his rookie season, a season in-which Lipps would be named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Lipps was also voted a two-time All-Pro and appeared in two Pro Bowls during his eight years in Pittsburgh.
Lipps was a multi-faceted weapon who could score in a multitude of ways—including on special teams where he was an accomplished punt returner.
Lipps stat-line—358 receptions for 6018 yards—pales in comparison to Miller’s statistics (at least in receptions, anyway—Miller’s 592 receptions were slightly less efficient, as they led to 6,569 yards), but I think Lipps had a greater impact on the NFL during his prime years than Miller ever did.
No knock against Miller. I’m just being a fan. Same with Roethlisberger. Same with you.
A number of years ago, I wrote that Rod Woodson should have his No. 26 retired as a way to honor him as well as those great 1990s squads that came close several times but could never get over the hump and win a title.
Completely independent of those awesome Steelers teams, Woodson was an all-time great as a cornerback—we’re talking 75th Anniversary All-time Team and First ballot HOF great—and people were like, “Get out of here with that mess!”
Don’t forget, Le’Veon Bell, he of the 2,000 yards from scrimmage, was the No. 26 at the moment, a player fans actually embraced in those days.
So which Steelers players should have their numbers retired? At the moment, just two: Mean Joe Greene (No. 75) and Ernie Stautner (No. 70). Obviously, there are plenty of numbers that have been unofficially retired (you know them—no need for a list). Should Miller’s be one of them?
If you’re going to do that, you should tell David DeCastro to give up Alan Faneca’s No. 66.
While you’re at it, stop handing out No. 82 and No. 88 to any Tom, Dick or Harry that thinks he can catch a football.
Numbers, they mean something. But do they mean as much as the memories? Heath Miller gave us plenty of those, but let’s not go overboard with the reverence.
He was no Louis Lipps….says the 12-year old in me.