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Pittsburgh Steelers ‘Digit-Dynasty’: Who wore the number best? (Part One)

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The Steelers have a rich history, but looking back at their jersey numbers it makes you wonder, “Which player wore the number best?”

NFL: AFC Divisional-Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

As the Steelers converge on St. Vincent College in Latrobe this weekend to prepare for 2015. We will see familiar faces donning the numbers of 7, 84 and 92. These men made those numbers recognizable over the years.

Once again this year, rookies and first-year players will not only be vying to make a name for themselves, but they will be attempting to immortalize their newly-issued number.

For instance, will Artie Burns make the #25 honorable again in the Steeler secondary?

Could Javon Hargrave become the best ever to sport the seven followed by the nine on his chest and back?

Is it possible, that Ross Cockrell makes it so that Donnie Shell is no longer considered the best defensive back to ever wear No. 31 in black and gold on the North Side?

Has Markus Wheaton done enough to be the best Steeler to sport snake eyes?

What player going into his second season is already the best to wear his number?

This all remains to be seen. However, who are the greatest Steelers to be synonymous with each number from 00 to 99 in the previous 83 seasons of the franchise's existence? In this two-part series, we will list the best for each digit. Some were very tough and there are stars that didn't make the cut. Judge for yourself and let us know who we missed. I'm sure you will.

Note: Years provided came from The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 Media Guide

Part One (Numbers 00-49)

00/0-Johnny Clement-QB/RB - 1946

After serving in World War II as an officer in the Army Air Corp, Clement returned to the NFL and joined the Steelers. Clement is the only player to wear the goose egg in Piittsburgh franchise history. Clement played three years in black and gold.

1-Gary Anderson-K - 1982-1994

Landslide team leader in career scoring and field goals made. The quintessential Steeler kicker should be enshrined in Canton, but a presumed kicker-bias and the miss in the 1998 NFC Championship for the Vikings may be keeping him out. But Anderson is the #1 player ever to wear the #1 in Pittsburgh.

2-Dennis Dixon-QB - 2008-2011

Not a lot to pick from here, but Mike Vick is not the answer. Dixon only wore #2 for one start with the Steelers. He wore #10 for his two starts and victories in 2010, but he is still the most successful player to don the deuce. Dixon owns two Super Bowl rings (Pittsburgh and Baltimore), but never saw the field in three Super Bowls.

3-Jeff Reed-K - 2002-2010

Reed was definitely not a favorite among Pittsburgh law enforcement, but the thick-legged kicker is the second best kicker to ever play in Pittsburgh. Crazy off-the-field antics aside, the free agent from North Carolina beat the field in a tryout and conquered the Heinz Field conditions for parts of nine seasons.

Honorable Mention: Mark Royals 1992-1994

4-Josh Miller-P - 1996-2003

Miller averaged 42.9 yards-per-punt for eight seasons in the Steel City. He remains one of the most popular Steeler punters in team history. Miller boasts both a Grey Cup and Super Bowl ring in his career for other cities. The man who once boasted in a Steeler Gameday program to having an extensive Pez collection returned to Pittsburgh to do local sports radio.

Honorable Mention: Byron Leftwich 2008-2012

5-Terry Hanratty-QB -1969-1976

The consensus All-American from Notre Dame, Hanratty is most famous in Pittsburgh for being the alternative to Terry Bradshaw in the early 70s when #12 struggled. The Butler product was drafted in the second round a year before Bradshaw arrived. The two-time Super Bowl Champ started 18 games for the Steelers at various times and finished the AFC Championship and Super Bowl X when Bradshaw went down in both games.

Honorable Mention: Craig Colquitt-P 1978-1981 1983-1984

6-Bubby Brister-QB - 1986-1992

The brash native of Louisiana never had Pro Bowl numbers, but the wild playoff ride that he led the Steelers on in 1989 remains one of team lore. Brister is fifth among Steelers all-time passing leaders and one of the most entertaining sound bites ever.

Honorable Mention: Shaun Suisham 2010-2015

7-Ben Roethlisberger-QB - 2004-Present

No argument here for the guy that holds most every passing record in team history. Don't expect to see this number ever worn by a Steeler again. Big Ben is a three-time Pro Bowler and the youngest starting quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl.

Honorable Mention: Jim Finks 1951-1952 1954-1955

8-Tommy Maddox-QB - 2001-2005

I actually still own a Tommy Gun jersey. Maddox was selling insurance in Dallas when he returned to football in the XFL. In 2002, his electrifying quarterback play took them from a 1-3 record to nearly a spot in the AFC Championship. My friends and I politely called out to him at the airport that same year. He made a beeline to come and shake our hands. Pretty nice dude.

9-Norm Johnson-K -1995-1998

Owns the second best field goal percentage in team history and the fifth most field goals made. His perfectly executed onside-kick in Super Bowl XXX is one of team legend.

Honorable Mention: Matt Bahr 1979-1980

10-Kordell Stewart-QB/WR 1995-2002

A very polarizing player during his time in Pittsburgh, Stewart burst onto the scene in 1995 and was a key contributor to the team's Super Bowl XXX appearance as a jack-of-all-trades, mostly as a receiver. The best running QB in franchise lore had 2,874 yards on the ground, but Kordell was hot and cold as a passer. Stewart led the team to two AFC Title Games, throwing multiple picks in both games. Kordell has been featured most recently on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" and the subject of bizarre allegations due to it.

Honorable Mention: Santonio Holmes 2006-2009, Roy Gerela 1971-1978

11-Stefan Logan-KR - 2009

Logan only stayed in Steel City for one season, however he holds the team's single-season mark for kick return yardage and is second all-time in kick return yard average.

Honorable Mention: Markus Wheaton 2013-Present

12-Terry Bradshaw-QB - 1970-1983

Hall of Famer. Four-time Super Bowl Champion. Two-time Super Bowl MVP. No Brainer. The #12 has not been retired, but it has not been issued since Bradshaw. The Blonde Bomber is a three-time Pro Bowler, a two-time team MVP and a member of the 1970's All-Decade team. Ben Roethlisberger has eclipsed most of his team records, but Bradshaw remains one of the most legendary figures in team lore.

13-Jeremy Kapinos - 2010-2011

I had to pick someone, so I selected the serviceable punter from PSU in the Super Bowl XLV days.

14-Neil O'Donnell - 1990-1996

Neil is one of the most loathed (undeservedly in my opinion) Steelers of all time, mostly due to the two interceptions in Super Bowl XXX that he tossed. (No he didn't fix the game). However, they don't make the Super Bowl without O'Donnell that year. Funny story, two years before that fateful game in Phoenix, I was booed for wearing a #14 to a game at Three Rivers Stadium. O'Donnell is statistically the third-best quarterback in team history.

15-John Blood McNally-HB/DB - 1934 1937-1938

Johnny Blood played one season in Pittsburgh in 1934 and returned in 1938 to serve as a player/coach of the Pirates. Art Rooney Sr. recalls McNally as the most memorable character he's ever known in his career. Hall of Famer.

Honorable Mention: Mike Kruczek 1976-1979

16-Mark Malone-QB/WR - 1980-1987

With only a 21-24 record over his eight seasons in Pittsburgh, the team's former #1 pick from Arizona State was the team's starter under center for four years. Malone led the team to the AFC Championship Game in the 1984 season. As a rookie, the man with the Magnum-esque moustache caught a 90-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw against Seattle that stood as a record for a number of years.

Honorable Mention: Charlie Batch 2002-2012, Len Dawson 1957-1959

17-Mike Wallace-WR - 2009-2012

As a deep threat, the speedy Wallace was a dream weapon for Ben Roethlisberger and a nightmare for defenses. The leader of the ill-fated "Young Money" stable had 235 receptions for 4,042 yards, caught 32 touchdowns and averaged 17.2 ypc. Unhappy over money and Antonio Brown's extension, Wallace left the team as a free agent after his rookie deal ran out in 2013. The Steelers will see Wallace twice in 2016 as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Honorable Mention: Joe Gilliam 1972-1975

18-Mike Tomczak-QB - 1993-1999

Tomczak joined the Steelers as a free agent pick up from Cleveland. Mike was the starter in 1996, leading the team to the playoffs that year. The rest of his career was spent as a reliable reserve quarterback in the Steel City.

Honorable Mention: Cliff Stoudt 1977-1983, Harry Newsome 1985-1989

19-Andre Coleman-KR/PR - 1997-1998

The Hickory High grad returned a kickoff for a touchdown his rookie season in the Super Bowl for San Diego in 1995. In '97, Coleman joined the Steelers and manned return duties for two seasons.

Honorable Mention: David Woodley 1984-1985

20-Rocky Bleier-RB - 1968 1971-1980

The four-time Super Bowl champion is also a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. After his rookie season, Bleier was drafted into the U.S. Army and was sent to Vietnam where a grenade blew off part of his foot. While recovering, Bleier received a note of encouragement from the Chief. A year later, the Rock returned and became an important cog in the Steeler's offensive machine. Bleier retired after the 1980 season with 3,865 rushing yards, 136 receptions for 1,294 yards and 25 touchdowns. In my mind, this guy is Hall of Fame.

Honorable Mention: Paul Martha 1964-1969, Dwight Stone 1987-1994, Erric Pegram 1995-1996, DeWayne Washington 1998-2003, Bryant McFadden 2005-2008

21-Mewelde Moore-RB - 2008-2011

The Tulane alum was an unsung hero of the Super Bowl XLIII season. Mewlde's 908 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns that year were paramount in keeping the team afloat after Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall went down with injuries.

Honorable Mention: Tony Dungy 1977-1978, Deon Figures 1993-1996, Amos Zereoue 1999-2003

22-Bobby Layne-QB - 1958-1962

The six-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Fame quarterback spent the last five years of his career in Pittsburgh. Twice named to the Pro Bowl as a Steeler, Layne was 27-22-2 as a starter. Legend has it that upon being traded to Pittsburgh, Layne cursed the Lions claiming they would not win for 50 years. 58 years later, the curse endures.

Honorable Mention: John L Williams 1994-1995, William Gay 2007-2011 2014-Present

23-Mike Wagner-S - 1971-1980

The two-time Pro Bowler is one of those guys that got lost in the shadows of all of the Hall of Famers from the fabled Steel Curtain defense, but Wagner tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions in 1973. When Wagner retired in 1981, he left with 36 interceptions and currently ranks sixth on the franchise all-time list.

Honorable Mention: Tyrone Carter 2004-2009

24-(Tie) J.T Thomas - 1973-1981 / Ike Taylor - 2003-2014

Like Wagner, Thomas was another awesome player lost in the shuffle of superstars on the vaunted Steel Curtain defense. Playing alongside Mel Blount, the duo was dubbed as the 6th best cornerback tandem in NFL history by J.T., not to be confused with the Survivor winner of the same name, had 20 interceptions in his nine seasons as a Steeler. The 4x Super Bowl Champ was named to the 1976 Pro Bowl.

If Taylor had possessed better hands, he would have been a perrennial Pro Bowler, However Mr. Miyagi probably caught more flies with chopsticks than Taylor did balls thrown his way. Nonetheless, Ike was a major force and a locker room leader on a dominating defense during his eleven seasons at Heinz Field.

25-Ray Matthews-WR - 1951-1959

In 1954, Ray Matthews scored four touchdowns in a game against Cleveland. A member of the Steeler's 75th Aniversary team, Matthews ranks seventh among team leaders for career touchdowns with 43.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Clark 2006-2013, Ron Shanklin 1970-1974

26-Rod Woodson-CB - 1987-1996

Woodson spent ten years of his Hall of Fame resume' in black and gold, but most Steeler fans still view him as the one that got away. The world class hurdler thrived for seven more seasons in the NFL after departing Pittsburgh. It's hard not to wonder if his leadership on defense would have brought another title to the City of Champions, especially in 1997. During his Steeltown tenure, Woodson was named All-Pro six times, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1993, three-time Steelers MVP and was included on the 75th Aniversary All-Time team. Rod holds the NFL record for interceptions returned for a touchdown at 12.

Honorable Mention: Brady Keys 1961-1967, Deshea Townsend 1998-2009, Le'Veon 2013-Present

27-Glen Edwards-S - 1971-1977

Edwards is another one of those 70's Steelers that gets overshadowed by the Hall of Famers of that era. In eight seasons as a member of the Steel Curtain defense, Edwards picked-off 25 passes. The four-time All-Pro played in Super Bowl IX and X, before leaving for San Diego.

Honorable Mention: Thomas Everett 1988-1991, Brent Alexander 2000-2003, Willie Williams 1993-1996 2004-2005

28-Chris Hope-S - 2002-2005

Hope started 32 games as a Steeler in four seasons. The talented safety started in Super Bowl XL and then departed for Tennessee, where he enjoyed a Pro Bowl season in 2008.

Honorable Mention: Lupe Sanchez 1986-1988

29-Barry Foster-RB - 1990-1994

The ball-carrier served five enigmatic seasons for the Steelers. Foster enjoy the finest single-season ever in club history in 1992, rushing for a team mark of 1,690 yards and earning the team's MVP honor. Foster ran and received for nearly 5,000 yards and scored 28 times in Pittsburgh. The emergence of Bam Morris and nagging injuries hastened his departure in 1995. Foster joined Carolina and Cincinnati in 1995, put never played a game for either club.

Honorable Mention: Chidi Iwuoma 2002-2006, Ryan Mundy 2009-2012

30-Frank Pollard-RB - 1980-1988

The high school track star won a state track team championship in Texas as the only member of the team. Pollard was a very productive runner in Pittsburgh during the eighties. In nine seasons, Pollard ran for 3,989 yards and 20 touchdowns. He spent his entire career wearing black and gold.

Honorable Mention: Larry Anderson 1978-1981, Chad Scott 1997-2004

31-Donnie Shell-S - 1974-1987

Not only did the Steelers draft four Hall of Famers in 1974's class, the undrafted safety from South Carolina State may one day join them in Canton. In 14 seasons with the Steelers, Shell amassed 51 interceptions. He ranks third in franchise history, six behind the leader, Mel Blount.

Honorable Mention: Mike Logan 2001-2006

32-Franco Harris-RB - 1972-1984

The Super Bowl IX MVP and owner of four rings is the all-time team rushing leader. His Immaculate Reception remains the greatest play in NFL history and some people believe it marked the turning point for a perrennial loser. His is another non-retired number that does not get issued. Harris thrilled his Italian Army as a nine-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1970's All-Decade team.

33-John "Frenchy" Fuqua-RB - 1970-1976

Fuqua, Fran Rogel and Merril Hoge all had similar stats at this number, all amassing over 3,000 yards as a Steeler. A member of two Super Bowl winners, Fuqua wins the tiebreaker due to his holding the single-game rushing mark of 220 yards in a 1970 contest. That record lasted 36 years. "The French Count" is the only man who knows the truth behind the Immaculate Reception. Fuqua, who remains mum on the subject and has turned down large sums to reveal, was the player that the fateful pass was originally intended for.

Honorable Mention: Fran Rogel 1954-1957, Merril Hoge 1986-1993, Byron "Bam" Morris 1994-1995

34-Andy Russell-LB - 1963-1976

Andy Russell was a part of the greatest trio of linebackers in NFL history. Not as recognizable as Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, Russell still thrived for 12 years and won two Super Bowl titles. His 93-yard fumble return in the 1975 playoffs vs Baltimore was voted by fans as the seventh best play in Three Rivers history. Russell was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and was a four-time All-Pro.

Honorable Mention: Walter Abercrombie 1982-1987, Verron Haynes 2002-2007, Rashard Mendenhall 2008-2012, DeAngelo Williams 2015-Present

35-John Henry Johnson-RB - 1960-1965

Hall of Famers galore wore #35 in Pittsburgh, including Bullet Bill Dudley, Walt Keisling and John McNally. However, John Henry Johnson wore it for six seasons of his Hall of Fame Career in Pittsburgh. Johnson ranks fourth all-time on the team's career rushing list.

Honorable Mention: Delton Hall 1987-1991, Dan Kreider 2000-2007

36-Jerome Bettis-RB -

The Rams presumed trash became the Steelers treasure when they acquired the big rusher for a second and fourth rounder in the 1996 draft. The Bus trails only Franco Harris for the team lead in most rushing categories. Despite spending his first three years in LA and St. Louis, Jerome rushed for 10,571 yards and scored 80 touchdowns for the Steelers. As the Steelers celebrated their Super Bowl XL win, Bettis retired on the podium in his home city of Detroit. Bettis, who was enshrined in Canton finally in August 2015, is sixth all-time on the NFL's rushing list.

37-Carnell Lake-S/CB - 1989-1998

A linebacker at UCLA, Lake switched to safety in the pros and his play earned him inclusion on the 1990's All-Decade team. Lake, who now serves as the Steelers defensive backfield coach, was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a 4-time All-Pro during his time with Pittsburgh. Lake tallied 677 tackles, 25 sacks, 16 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries during his 10-year career by the three rivers. Lake's defining moment was switching to cornerback in 1995 after Rod Woodson's season-ending injury in the opener. Lake's performance that season head a major factor in the team's SB XXX entry.

38-Sidney Thornton-RB - 1977-1982

Thornton was picked in the second round of the 1977 draft. Mostly a back up to Franco Harris, Sidney played in 76 games, hit paydirt 18 times and combined rushing and receiving for over 2,000 yards. Thornton played in both Super Bowls XIII and XIV.

Honorable Mention: Tim Worley 1989-1991 1993, Jon Witman 1996-2001

39-Willie Parker-RB - 2004-2010

Fast Willie Parker wasn't supposed to start in Pittsburgh, but in 2005 when Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley were deemed unable to play in the opener, Parker ran the rock for 161 yards and finished the season with 1,202. In Super Bowl XL, Parker's 75-yard dash is still the longest running play in Super Bowl history. Injuries cut short the career of the two-time Pro Bowler, who finished his career as the third best rusher in team history with 5,378 yards and 29 touchdowns. Parker holds the record for most yards in a single game with 223 on a frigid December night in 2006.

Honorable Mention: Bobby Walden 1968-1977, Darren Perry 1992-1998

40-Myron Bell-S - 1994-1997 2000-2001

The man known as "Boo" played six non-consecutive seasons as a Steeler. The safety from Michigan State collected three interceptions in his time and started in Super Bowl XXX against Dallas.

41-Lethon Flowers-S - 1995-2002

Flowers was a big league hitter and an all-league talker. Lee never met a microphone he didn't like. In eight years, Flowers had four picks, 432 tackles and 12 sacks. Lee appeared in 3 AFC title bouts and Super Bowl XXX.

42-Dick Hoak-RB - 1961-1970

Dick Hoak is one of the longest-tenured Steelers with ten years as a running back and 36 years as a running backs coach. Hoak's 3,965 yards ranks him sixth all-time on the list of Steeler rushers.

43-Troy Polamalu-S - 2003-2014

The 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year retired as one of the most popular players in the history of the team. The eight-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro was known for his kamikaze-style of play and his trademark hair. Troy is a member of the NFL's 2000's All-Decade team, the franchise's All-Time team and the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and team MVP. Polamalu concluded his career after the 2014 season with 581 tackles and ranks seventh all-time with 32 interceptions.

Honorable Mention: Frank Lewis 1971-1977, Ernest Jackson 1986-1988

44-D.J. Johnson-CB - 1989-1993

The bandana-sporting Johnson stood out opposite Rod Woodson at corner in the early 90's. In his Steeler career, he thieved 19 passes.

Honorable Mention: Mike Collier 1975-1976

45-Chris Fuamatu Ma'afala-RB - 1998-2002

The massive Hawaiian spent five years carrying the pigskin as a Steeler. Referred to as "One Bad Ma'Afala", Chris chipped in with eight touchdowns during his era.

46-Reggie Harrison-RB - 1974-1977

Harrison lasted four years as a Steeler and made his mark on special teams. His pivotal punt block in Super Bowl X resulted in a safety. Twice a Super Bowl Champ, Harrison started in place of the injured Franco Harris and Rocky Bleir in the 1976 AFC Championship. He is now known as Kamal Ali Salaam-El.

Honorable Mention: Will Johnson 2012-2015

47-Mel Blount-CB - 1970-1983

The Hall of Famer was so dominant they instituted a rule because of him, the 5-yard chuck. Blount revolutionized the corner position and ranks a team best with 57 intercepted balls in his career, including 11 in 1975 when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The five-time Pro Bowler made All-Pro six times and is a member of the 1970's All-Decade team and the NFL's 75th Aniversary Team.

Marv Woodson 1964-1969

48-Alvin "Bud" Dupree - 2015-Present

Dupree, the 2015 top selection out of Kentucky, had a promising rookie season for the Steelers last year. Dupree accumulated four sacks and is expected to be a stalwart on the Pittsburgh defense for the next decade.

49-Dwayne Woodruff-CB - 1979-1990

As good as Woodruff was for 12 seasons as a Steeler, the work that the 1982 team MVP does now impacts more people. A member of the SB XIV winning squad, Woodruff was elected a judge in the court of common pleas of Allegheny County in 2005. He ran for openings on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but fell short. His 37 interceptions in 12 seasons ranks him fourth all-time in Pittsburgh.

Honorable Mention: Lynn Chandnois 1952 1954-1956