Steelers Sign Former Bears Second-Round Pick

Anthony Miller

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images Anthony Miller of the Chicago Bears reacts to a fourth quarter catch against the Detroit Lions on November 28, 2019.

With former second-round draft choices JuJu Smith Schuster and James Washington both pending unrestricted free agents, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed former Chicago Bears second-rounder Anthony Miller to a Reserve/Futures contract on Monday.

The news came courtesy of Tom Pelissero of NFL Network and the transaction was subsequently listed on the NFL’s January 24 personnel notice. No announcement has yet been made by the team.

The Steelers originally signed Miller after a workout in October, not long after JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered what was then believed to be a season-ending shoulder injury. But Smith-Schuster was able to return to practice in the runup to Pittsburgh’s Wild Card game against the Kansas City Chiefs; the Steelers subsequently waived punter Corliss Waitman to make room for him on the 53-man roster.

Smith-Schuster went on to catch five passes for 26 yards against the Chiefs. The downside is that the Denver Broncos claimed Waitman off waivers, so he won’t be around to compete against Pressley Harvin III for the punting job in 2022.

Miller Was Selected No. 51 Overall in 2018

As for Anthony Miller, he’s a product of the University of Memphis, where he had 238 catches for 3,590 yards and 37 touchdowns in 38 career games. That enticed the Bears to select him No. 51 overall in 2018 but he struggled to produce consistently in Chicago’s quarterback-challenged offense and admitted to having a tense relationship with his coaches.

During the three years he spent in Chicago, Miller played in 47 games and made 17 starts, recording 134 receptions for 1,564 yards and 11 touchdown catches. For what it’s worth, those numbers are comparable to what James Washington put up during his four seasons in Pittsburgh (114 catches, 1,629 yards, 11 TDs).

Unlike Washington—who requested a trade prior to his fourth season in the league, a request that went unheeded—the Bears dealt Miller to the Houston Texans in July 2021. He went on to play in two games (with one start)–recording five catches for 23 yards and a touchdown–before getting released by the Texans on October 6, 2021.

Miller may well get the opportunity to replace Washington, as the Steelers have a shortage of proven wide receivers under contract for 2022. Beyond Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, there’s kick returner/slot receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (a restricted free agent) and not much else.

All together, Miller has 50 games of NFL experience, with 140 career receptions for 1,589 yards. That includes the one catch for two yards that he had for the Steelers, which came during the Week 12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, during which he played 25 snaps.

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T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward Named First-Team All-NFL

In other news from Monday, Steelers defenders T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward were named first-team All-NFL by the Pro Football Writers of America, and also named to the All-AFC team.

Both were previously named to the AP’s 2021 NFL All-Pro Team, which was unveiled on January 14, 2022.

Watt has led the NFL in sacks for the last two years, and in 2021 he tied the NFL’s single-season record (22.5), which was set by New York Giants Hall of Famer Michael Strahan in 2001. Heyward authored 10 sacks in 2021, the second time in his 11-year career that he has recorded double-digit sacks.

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