Steelers soul-searching after Heath Miller loss

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert on retired tight end Heath Miller: "Heath was as real a person, teammate and player that you could ever hope for." George Gojkovich/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS -- Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert addressed the media at the NFL combine, where he lamented the loss of Heath Miller to retirement.

The way Colbert sees it, the Steelers can't replace Miller, and not just because of his 592 catches.

"We lost something from the body of our team. Probably more important, we lost something from the soul of our team," Colbert said. "Heath was as real a person, teammate and player that you could ever hope for. I don’t think you replace him, you just try to supplement that position and hope for the best.”

Miller informed the team of his retirement plans Friday.

The Steelers must decide whether Jesse James, a fifth-round pick from 2015, is an adequate starter at tight end. From what I've gathered, the Steelers like James very much, want to love him but aren't sure yet. James had eight catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in spot duty.

If the Steelers need reinforcements, Arkansas' Hunter Henry is the clear-cut best tight end of this draft and could be available at No. 25 overall, where the Steelers pick. Late second round, not so much.

Colbert said James was "night and day" better late in the season than he was in his first training camp, and that James' rookie year was sort of like his senior year of college, since he declared for the draft after his junior year.

"Obviously with Heath out of the mix, he’ll have more opportunities," Colbert said. "This will really be like his rookie year. We will see how he progresses with that."

The Steelers also have veteran Matt Spaeth, developmental tight end Xavier Grimble and H-back Will Johnson, who is a free agent.