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Steelers should seriously consider retiring a third player’s number

Not too many Steelers quarterbacks have led their team to the Super Bowl, but Neil O’Donnell is one of them. Therefore, the organization should do the right thing and retire his No. 14 jersey.


In the grand, illustrious and very rich history of our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, they've only retired two numbers--Ernie Stautner's No. 70 and "Mean" Joe Greene's menacing No. 75.

That's actually kind of amazing when you stop and think about it. I mean, we're talking about some of the greatest competitors to ever play in the NFL, guys named Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mel Blount, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Louis Lipps, Rod Woodson, Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis...the list goes on and on.

There is one player absent from the previously listed roll call of former Steelers greats, but I chose to keep him separate in order to make a point (or two).

My first point is, unlike most of the names I just mentioned, the Steelers organization doesn't even have the courtesy to at least not hand out his number.

My second point is, how many of those players were quarterbacks who led the team to the Super Bowl?

If you guessed Bradshaw, you would be correct. If you were to name the still playing Ben Roethlisberger and his soon-to-be unofficially retired No. 7, that would also be an accurate guess.

Fact is, only three quarterbacks have led the Steelers to the Super Bowl, and that's why the number I'm thinking of--one that should be retired alongside No. 70 and No. 75--is No. 14 in honor of former quarterback and playoff hero, Neil O'Donnell.

O'Donnell, a third round pick out of Maryland in the 1990 NFL Draft, eventually assumed the role of starter in 1992, under first year head coach Bill Cowher.

After completing 185 of 313 passes for 2,283 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions, O'Donnell not only made his first Pro Bowl in '92, he won nine games as a starter and led Pittsburgh to its first AFC Central title in eight years.

The following season would be O'Donnell's finest, as he passed for over 3,200 yards, 14 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, while leading the Steelers to the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs.

Fast-forward to the 1995 campaign, where O'Donnell, by then a grizzled veteran, led the way with heart, guts and determination, as he and the Steelers marched through the AFC and into Super Bowl XXX.

Speaking of the AFC, what about that conference title game at old Three Rivers Stadium?

With precious little time remaining, and Pittsburgh trailing the Cinderella Colts, 16-13, O'Donnell connected with receiver Ernie Mills for a 37-yard strike down to the Indianapolis one-yard line. Two plays later, the Steelers went ahead to stay and were off to Arizona and their first Super Bowl appearance in 16 seasons.

The Steelers entered the Super Bowl as a nearly two-touchdown underdog to a Dynastic Dallas squad that had just won two Lombardi trophies over the previous three seasons.

But while few people gave the Black and Gold a chance, with O'Donnell leading the way, the home team hung in there until the end.

Not only did O'Donnell show guts by diving on center Dermontti Dawson's errant shotgun snap early in the first half, he displayed great talent late in the first half, with a laser strike to receiver Yancey Thigpen for a six-yard score that got the Steelers back in the game at 13-7.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys proved to be too much in the second half--they were just so overwhelmingly talented--as the Steelers valiant yet over-matched defense wilted under the glaring spotlight and allowed two touchdowns to running back Emmitt Smith.

Following the '95 campaign, O'Donnell gracefully decided to continue his NFL career elsewhere; he had other dragons to slay, more battles to win, and so he signed with the New York Jets.

But it wasn't long before O'Donnell found himself back in the AFC Central, this time as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, where, in 1998, he was the AFC Completion Percentage Champion, connecting on 61.8 percent of his passes.

O'Donnell spent the final five years of his career as a member of the Titans, where he won yet another AFC Championship, before finally calling it quits after the 2003 season.

For his career, O'Donnell finished with 21,690 passing yards, 120 touchdowns and 68 interceptions. But 12,867 of those yards and 68 of those touchdowns came during his golden years as a member of the Steelers.

Hopefully, the Steelers will read this article and do the right thing by retiring O'Donnell's No. 14.

Perhaps receiver Sammie Coates can jump-start this campaign by taking to Twitter and announcing that he will give up his No. 14 jersey in favor of a number with a little less history and legend attached to it.

Finally, Super Bowl appearances are precious, and O'Donnell owns one of the franchise's eight trips to the Promised Land.

If anyone could do it, it wouldn't be that difficult.

But Neil O'Donnell wasn't just anyone, and that's why his No. 14 should forever be immortalized up in the rafters of Heinz Field.

(Editor’s Note: Please locate the date and timestamp of this article before going absolutely bonkers in the comment section.)