Steelers wide receiver Anthony Miller sees opportunity to land spot in slot – TribLIVE

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It’s unsurprising that in looking back at his fourth calendar year in the NFL that Anthony Miller would refer to it has “humbling.”
But what might come as a surprise is Miller didn’t let his 2021 affect his confidence in himself.
“I love…” Miller said earlier this month, before pausing, “I like me over everybody. We are all competing. We are all getting better, but I am coming for that spot. That’s what it is.”
The “spot” Miller referenced is starting slot receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the offseason free-agent departures of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Ray-Ray McCloud, there is no incumbent as the top inside receiver. Though the Steelers took receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III among their top four picks in the draft, the losses of Smith-Schuster, McCloud and James Washington leave only Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as proven commodities on the roster.
Or are they? Miller was a relatively recent (2018) second-round pick with a seven-touchdown season (2018) and two seasons with at least 49 catches (2019, 2020) already on his resume. He has more career receptions (140) and receiving touchdowns (12) than Claypool — albeit in two extra seasons.
But Miller’s stats almost exclusively were accumulated over three seasons. That’s because his 2021 was such a wash.
It began with reports the Bears were looking to trade Miller, who was coming off his least productive season to date. Chicago ultimately settled for a mere swap of late-round draft picks from the lowly Houston Texans, for whom Miller lasted two games before being waived.
The Steelers picked him up but activated him for only one of their final 12 games of the season.
“It’s definitely a different situation than from when I just got into the league,” Miller said at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex after a Steelers minicamp practice this month. “I was a second-round pick, so to go from that to now in the position where I’m doing everything I can just to make the team, it’s definitely a humbling experience.”
Miller began 2020, in effect, as a No. 2 wide receiver with the Bears. By early 2021, he was no better than the eighth option at WR for the Steelers.
Still, the talent is there — and so, now, is the opportunity.
“I feel like I’m better than I was before,” Miller said. “I feel like I’m more mature in my career within my position and also on the details of playing the game. Now I think I’ve sharpened those up, and I’m ready to go out there and play the best I can.”
One of the Steelers’ top options for the slot might be a former college teammate at Memphis. Austin was a walk-on who was as a sprinter for the Tigers’ track team in 2017, when Miller was an All-American.
Also a former walk-on, the 5-foot-11, 199-pound Miller had 96 catches for 1,462 yards and 18 touchdowns as a redshirt junior. It was enough to impress the Bears, who took him with the 51st overall pick and immediately made him their WR3 as a rookie.
He had a touchdown in five of his first nine NFL games.
“My whole career, I’ve played in the slot,” Miller said. “I’ve had a lot of success in slot, and I feel like I have learned even more about the slot position, even after not playing last year. I got to sit back and observe some guys and watch them from afar, and I definitely appreciated that and now get to implement what I saw.”
For Miller to make the season-opening 53-man roster this year, he probably has to show value on special teams. Miller has on occasion returned kicks and punts in college and the pros, and regularly has taken reps in the lines for each during practices with the Steelers. He also has served as a “gunner” covering punts in the NFL.
As things stand, though, Miller would seem to be a longshot to scale the top of the depth chart in any of those spots. Still, if he shows he’s still a viable option on offense and on special teams, Miller — at worst — would seem to be quite the insurance policy for the Steelers.
“I feel like I am just a football player. I can play anything,” Miller said. “I just have to take advantage of all the opportunities that I get, no matter what position.”
Hey, Steelers Nation, get the latest news about the Pittsburgh Steelers here.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at cadamski@triblive.com or via Twitter .
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