We’ve all been there. It’s time to update our Steelers fashion with the newest jersey, toiling over which player to represent on game day at Heinz Field. Choose wisely and the high-fives may increase while walking through the Great Hall. Choose poorly and your newest attire could be buried in the back of the closet before the aroma fades from the splash of the adult beverage in which it was showered during a touchdown celebration.
In all seriousness, investing in a Steelers jersey is no joking matter. The last thing you want to do is spend your hard earned cash to only last a season before the player has gone elsewhere. And as BTSC’s Jeff Hartman recently pointed out in his letter from the editor, owning a dozen jerseys does not give you a Steelers “fan card.” Many fans only buy a jersey every three to five years in order to keep up with changing styles such as color rush or throwbacks. So if you’re looking to invest in a jersey for the 2019 season, and you are looking for one to stand the test of time, we here BTSC are here to help.
The purpose of this exercise is to avoid the “corner of shame” in one’s closet. I’m sure we all have it. It’s the jersey you’ll never wear again because of the player. Jeff Hartman has his Kendrell Bell which was given to him after his rookie-of-the-year season and before his ankles were determined to be made of glass. Bryan Anthony Davis has his infamous Jarvis Jones (I’m uncertain at what point it ever seemed like a good idea) and I’m sure he has a host of others as he collects jerseys more than a Browns fan collects paper bag masks. For myself, it’s my recently retired Antonio Brown bumblebee jersey which was given to me for Christmas in 2012. I’m sure there may be one or two other Steelers fans with an 84 jersey now in their corner of shame.
Personally, I think any jersey that could be confidently worn to the stadium for 3 to 5 years is a worthwhile investment. So which Steeler players at the present time would give you such a return on your purchase?
Up until about five years ago, there were some fantastic articles on this site from a “jersey committee” in order to help fans make their choice. In recognition of the great work that was done in 2014 and before, I am going to use their same categories for jerseys with an ever so-slight-twist of subcategories. Those main categories are:
- Don’t Buys
Before diving into each of these categories, I’m going to bring up a separate issue in which it is fair to choose at any moment: the retro jersey. Steeler greats will always have a jersey which can be worn throughout eternity. These jerseys will never reach the corner of shame. Classic jerseys like Greene, Harris, Lambert, Swann, and (most of the time) Bradshaw will always be welcomed into the tailgate party at the Heinz Field parking lot. The more recent batch of retro players will also gain you entrance to such festivities, such as Bettis, Ward, and Polamalu.
I also believe that there is a special category here: active retro. I think it’s fairly safe to say that Ben Roethlisberger’s jersey will also be one which can be worn throughout eternity. Yes, Ben is still playing and there are still things which could happen at the end of his career which could change this, but I believe the likelihood of Ben not being on the Mount Rushmore of Steelers players is unlikely. But chances are anyone with more than one Steelers jersey in their collection has probably already invested in a number seven jersey (or has specifically chose not to invest in one), so therefore crowning him the champion would serve a very small portion of the fanbase. Additionally, It would be a stretch for his jersey to apply to have 3 to 5 more active years of playing.
I went through this process in the 2017 off-season as I decided to upgrade to a color rush jersey as it would match perfectly with my custom-made Kylo Ren Star Wars Steelers helmet.
I made the decision to not repeat the jersey of a player I already had, so Rothlisberger, Pouncey, and Brown were all excluded. I wanted to wear this new jersey for at least three seasons and hoped to have someone who would personify “The Darkside.” As I go through these categories, I will refer back to my own dilemma and how I came to my final decision.
So here we go...
The Custom-Named Jersey
Don’t. Just don’t. You aren’t on the team, so unless your name is Polamalu, don’t put your own last name on the jersey.
After purchasing my 2017 color rush, someone suggested that I should have done a number seven and put the name “Kylo Ben” on the back. While I have always been against the custom jersey, the pure awesomeness of the helmet outweighs the cheesiness of the custom name (which, not being my own, becomes more acceptable). I must admit that I have considered ordering this jersey as my next purchase.
Although I believe Devin Bush would be a good five-year investment as a jersey, the last thing I would want to do was feel my purchase was the jinx which led to a Sean Spence situation.
I could have thrown in another category of “The New Free Agent Signing,” but since they are technically a rookie to the Steelers I will just mention them here.
The Contract Year
Never, never, buy a jersey of a player going into the final year of their contract unless you plan on getting a new jersey every season. For example, Joe Haden may not be the best investment right now unless he signs an extension before the start of the season. Javon Hargrave and Sean Davis are two more players who are entering the final year of the rookie contract and will possibly be extended. But until they are, the investment is high risk.
One suggestion for my color rush jersey was for James Harrison, mainly based off his no-nonsense attitude. My three year requirement nixed the suggestion quickly.
The Roster Bubble/Non-Starter
If Tyler Matakevich has you convinced he’s going to be the next big thing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, then go for it. But for me, the players who aren’t cracking the starting lineup could find themselves expendable and render your jersey obsolete.
Going back to my color rush decision, this category made me nix Nix. While I thought Rosie would be a great choice, I was unsure at the time how much the Steelers would continue to employ a fullback. If only his Pro Bowl selection had come one season sooner I might be wearing number 45.
Are you really going to go with a kicker? It reminds me of when I traveled to Washington DC in 2008 for the Monday night game and sat behind someone wearing a Daniel Sepulveda jersey. I wondered why back then, and I continue to wonder why even now.
Any player who is a problem in the locker room, regardless of their skill, should be disqualified. This is a brand new type of player to be avoided in the last two seasons. I’ll just leave it at that.
The Third Year Player
Any player drafted by the Steelers who is entering their third season (other than a first rounder which will be explained later) becomes a player who qualifies, but isn’t quite there yet. I’d like to think of this is an “on the cusp” option. Both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner fit this profile as they have two years down, Pro Bowl experience, and two years to go. In the 2020 off-season when both these players sign extensions (fingers crossed), they instantly vault to finalists or champions.
The Annual Starter
Players that have stuck around and held a starting spot for several years are never a bad choice. Player such as a Ramon Foster or Vince Williams are in the mix, but may not be the best option. At this point in their careers, their longevity with the team can be questioned.
The Pro Bowler
As long as they meet the criteria (like not being in a contract year), any Steelers player that is made a trip to the pro bowl would be an excellent choice. Player such as DeCastro, Villanueva, Pouncey, and Heyward are all on their second contracts and have shown they are all about being a Steeler their entire career.
At this point it is important to mention a player on the Steelers roster who is still a viable candidate to definitely wear their jerseys to game, if not even purchase one: Ryan Shazier. While he still hopes to play football again someday, his commitment to the Steelers is the one to be celebrated. Making the selection of Shazier is unquestionable in my opinion if one is led to go in that direction.
The First Rounder
With the fifth year option, any non-rookie first-round selection of the Steelers fits my “rule of five.” This rule, which I cleverly made up, is where a player must have at least five years total of number of years he played for the Steelers plus the number of years they are still under contract. I would consider a player with only two years left on their deal if they played for the Steelers three years already. But the more likely scenario is a T.J. Watt who has already completed his second year, been to the Pro Bowl, and has three years left with his fifth year option.
But one must be careful that they do not pull a Bryan Anthony Davis and too quickly invest in a Jarvis Jones (or Artie Burns) jersey. I wouldn’t say a first rounder has to make the Pro Bowl in their first three years, but if they were close enough to be considered a snub your selection would be justified.
The Dependable Veteran
Not every player can make the pro bowl but they can still be worthy of your jersey choice. Players such as Vance McDonald or Stephon Tuitt have been quality players for the Steelers and are still under contract for three and four years respectively.
As much as I’d like to bring this exercise to a definitive conclusion, I feel each person is better equipped to make their own decision as to their champion and, ultimately, their purchase. As for my color rush from two seasons ago, I went with Cam Heyward. Although he is a great champion for me, it may not be the best fit for each person. So please vote in the poll to see who the consensus BTSC champion for jersey purchase is for the 2019 off-season!
Which Steelers player is the "Champion" jersey to purchase in 2019?
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