By Bob Pompeani

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – One of the more popular players for the Pittsburgh Steelers is retiring.

According to the Steelers, tight end Heath Miller is calling it a career after 11 seasons. The Steelers first announced the decision on their twitter page.

The legendary player later released his own 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.

Miller is the franchise leader in receptions (592), receiving yards (6.569) and receiving touchdowns (45).

This past season, Miller had 60 receptions for 535 yards and two touchdowns.

His 592 career receptions are the sixth-most in NFL history. He ranks ninth all-time in receiving yards for a tight end as well.

Miller helped the Steelers win two Super Bowl titles and was also named to the Pro Bowl twice.

The news spread quickly and many of Heath’s teammates wished him well on Twitter.

The Steelers have released several statements on Miller’s retirement.

Team President Art Rooney said: “Since he was drafted in the first round in 2005, Heath has been an amazing player on the field and an outstanding contributor in our community. On behalf of the entire Steelers organization and Steelers Nation around the world, I would like to congratulate and thank Heath of his many contributions to the Steelers. The chants of “HEEATH” will be missed at Heinz Field and around the entire NFL. Heath is the most accomplished tight end in team history and his efforts will not soon be forgotten. We wish his entire family the best in his retirement, and we thank them for being part of the Steelers for 11 great years.”

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said: “Heath Miller was as great a combination of character and football player as I have ever been around. Heath helped us win many games, including two Super Bowl Championships, while also being an important part of our community. We want to thank Heath for his contributions and wish he, Katie and the kids nothing but the best.”

Head Coach Mike Tomlin said: “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to coach Heath, to watch him grow and evolve and perform. There are great benefits and blessings that come with being some place as long as I have been here. It also creates unique relationships and feelings and experiences that make events such as his retirement difficult. It would be selfish of me to view it in any other way other than a great deal of admiration and appreciation for having an opportunity to work with Heath for nine of the 11 years he has done it.”

Miller grew up in the tiny coal town of Swords Creek, Virginia. He excelled athletically at a young age and is the pride of Honaker High School.

His fans are taking the news of his retirement hard.

“I always remember everybody yelling, ‘Heeeeath!’ It didn’t matter if you were playing in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. The chants of ‘Heeeeeeeath’ will echo forever in Pittsburgh. Great guy,” said Steelers fan Donald Troesch.

“I was surprised,” Brian Williams, another Steelers fan, said. “He had five more years left in him, I thought.”

Post-Gazette Steelers beat writer Ray Fittipaldo joined The Starkey and Mueller Show on Sportsradio 93.7 The FAN to talk about Heath’s retirement and how the team may look to replace him this off-season.

“I have it on very good authority that this was Heath’s decision on his own,” Fittipaldo told us. “The Steelers would have welcomed him back for the final year of his contract. This is not one where the Steelers were pushing him out the door.”

Click the audio link below to hear more from Fittipaldo as he looked at the different ways the Steelers could look to bolster their tight end position now and also shared with us the conversation he had with current Steelers tight end Jesse James who is the starting tight end of the depth chart right now.

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