The Pittsburgh Steelers are trading one former Chicago Bears starter for another in their latest series of moves in the 2023 offseason.
According to the team’s official transaction transfer on Wednesday, June 20, the Steelers signed veteran linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and released veteran wide receiver Anthony Miller to make room for him on their 90-man offseason roster. Both players were Bears draft picks during Ryan Pace’s general manager run from 2015 to 2021.
Miller, a 2018 second-round pick and a resounding bust for the Bears, played the first three seasons of his career in Chicago, starting 17 games and catching 134 passes for 1,564 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, after a season filled with mistakes and disappointments in 2020, the Bears opted to trade him and a seventh-round pick to the Houston Texans before 2021 in exchange for an additional fifth-rounder — which Pace’s successor, Ryan Poles, flipped. 2022 draft to land both left tackle Braxton Jones (No. 168 overall) and running back Trestan Ebner (No. 203).
Kwiatkoski’s time in Chicago is better remembered. The 2016 fourth-round pick drew ire from fans through some of the rougher moments of his career, but he had a strong 2019 season for the Bears during the final year of his rookie contract, stepping in for the injured Roquan Smith and finished with career highs in solo tackles (56), tackles for loss (eight), sacks (three) and pass breakups (four).
Despite reports, the Bears were “priority” After re-signing him, Kwiatkoski ultimately landed with the Las Vegas Raiders on a three-year, $21 million deal during the 2020 offseason. However, he struggled to stay on the field for the Raiders and was cut loose ahead of the final year of his contract after making 12 starts in 20 appearances.
Can Anthony Miller make a mid-career resurgence?
Miller may be the latest former Bear to look for a new job, but his career path could be worth monitoring depending on where he lands next.
So far, the 27-year-old wide receiver has completely failed to recapture the spark he showed during his three seasons in Chicago. In Houston, Miller suffered an injury before the start of the 2021 season and appeared in just two of the Texans’ first four games, catching just five of his 11 targets for 23 yards and a touchdown and proving inconsistent. The Texans then unceremoniously dumped him after Week 4.
Fortunately for Miller, he was able to stick with Pittsburgh’s practice squad shortly after his release from Houston, but it didn’t add up to much playing time. He was elevated to the game-day roster once for the Steelers in 2021, then missed all of 2022 with a season-ending shoulder injury suffered during training camp.
While Miller earned a one-year contract to return to Pittsburgh for the 2023 season, the Steelers’ trade acquisition of Allen Robinson II — another one of his former Bears teammates — pushed him further into irrelevance on their depth chart.
Now the Bears’ former second-rounder has reached a crossroads. At 27, he could still reasonably play in the NFL for several seasons if he can prove himself a valued contributor to his next team, but he needs to find the right opportunity. Teams loaded with receiving depth won’t have much to offer him, but maybe he can have a mid-career resurgence if he can join a roster with a thinner position group, such as the Atlanta Falcons — who hire the man who drafted him – or the Tennessee Titans.
Bears have no reason to revisit Anthony Miller
Miller’s experience and past bursts of competent play should tempt at least a few teams out there looking to fill out their receiving rotation heading into camp next month, but there’s no reason for the Bears to consider a reunion with the former second-rounder.
Right now, the Bears are strong in terms of receiving depth. They will have one of their strongest starting trios in recent history with DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool and have done a quality job installing depth behind them, re-signing both Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis and drafted fourth-rounder Tyler Scott to compete for reps with 2022 third-rounder Velus Jones Jr.
At this point, it’s possible that one of the four depth pieces won’t even make the Bears’ 53-man roster. The two drafts are probably safe; though it’s possible a poor showing from Jones in camp could convince the Bears they made a mistake with him. If Jones can show moderate improvement after an inconsistent rookie year, however, it’s more likely that either St. Brown or Pettis ends up on the chopping block.
Regardless of which way the Bears go, there simply isn’t room for someone like Miller unless an injury or two changes the makeup of the group as it stands right now.