It seems like everywhere you go in and around Steeler Nation, somebody is wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey no matter the date on the calendar. However, I grew up in a time when replica jerseys were hard to come by. One of my favorite times of year was when the JC Penney catalog would come out and I’d immediately go towards the back where the NFL youth jerseys were. They’d always have the team name on the front and only one or two players available. At that time, it was typically Terry Bradshaw’s No. 12 or Franco Harris’ No. 32 that you could get in the painted-on printing. Living in Johnstown, the department stores such as Hills or GeeBee’s had a few on hand. The jersey of Jack Ham, a Flood City native, was sold locally and that was my very first Steeler jersey that my parents bought me. So in 1981, I had the perfect Halloween costume. I still have it today. I actually made my son try it on a few years back.
From there my jersey obsession grew, but I was never really able to get any more. In 1993, my cousins Kim and Larry were visiting from Los Angeles and I arranged to take them to Three Rivers Stadium for a Steelers/Browns game. They brought me my first Steelers jersey as an adult. It was No. 14, but Neil O’Donnell’s surname wasn’t on the back of the garment. But people knew what player I was representing. I wore it to that game and was vociferously jeered every single time I moved. I didn’t care. I loved it. It helped prep me for the boos in the comments section I receive weekly in the BTSC comments section. I did try to pass it off as a Todd Blackledge throwback though, but that didn’t really help matters whatsoever.
In the late 90s, Value City was carrying the screen-printed gems and I was all over it for $15. My first one from there was a Yancey Thigpen in 1997, but I got only a few months use out of that before he sauntered off to Music City to become a Tennessee Titan. So in desperate need of new team swag, I paid $50 at the stadium for an away Jerome Bettis at the AFC Championship Game vs Denver. Ouch! Not too long after that, something glorious happened. Value City put a bunch on clearance for $6. Not only could I offset the cost of my inflated Bus garb, I could go crazy and grow my collection. I acquired home and away Kordell Stewarts, a LeVon Kirkland and even a Richard Huntley. If anybody else actually still owns that one, I’d be flabbergasted. My one regret was not buying the No. 56 Mike Vrabel (Yes, the Steelers originally drafted him) jersey that was there. That would have been more rare than my No. 33 honoring the RB from Winston-Salem State.
Through the years and before the wife and kids, I’d pick up a few here and there. I’d get Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Joey “Peezy” Porter, Fast Willie Parker, Jeff Reed, Alan Faneca, LaMarr Woodley, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Antwaan Randle El, James Farrior and Troy Polamalu...but I always wanted to try to go more obscure.
Then I got married and mortgages and baby formula became more pressing to my wife, so I cut back. Then it happened, a guy my sister knew could get knockoffs cheap from overseas. I got my bumblebee Le’Veon Bell, My Batman Antonio Brown, throwback Mike Wallace and a white Brett Keisel from him. Then he screwed me over on a LeGarrette Blount Steelers jersey, among others, and made off with my cash. I guess I shouldn’t be too angry it was just Blount. But I did put a curse on him and sadly (or funny enough) his wife caught him cheating on her, she eventually turned to women and took him for everything. I lost a hundred bucks, but that dude lost a whole lot more. But I digress.
Now, I’ve found a more reliable source for jerseys, and I get them at a great price. That’s why you can see me wearing an LC Greenwood, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, Cameron Heyward, James Conner, Vance McDonald, Maurkice Pouncey, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Big Ben, Stephon Tuitt, (An American Flag-numbered) Ryan Shazier, Sean Davis (same last name) or a T.J. Watt on any given Sunday in different styles. Unfortunately, I whiffed on a few like DeAngelo Williams, Martavis Bryant and Jarvis Jones. \
I think my next purchase is a Rosie Nix in block numbers.
My only jersey superstition is wearing the same color or throwback/Color Rush as the team. I have been known to change mid-game, if the jersey is providing poor results. Yeah, I’m that guy.
Superstitions are funny.
BTSC Editor Jeff Hartman typically only wears Big Ben jerseys. A few years back when the Steelers were set to debut their Color Rush on Christmas Day...I gave him a Color Rush Ben Roethlisberger for Christmas. The Steelers did not start off too well in those jerseys, so he switched, and they won in dramatic fashion. So, my present got a one-way ticket for a trip to the back of the closet. That won’t deter me from getting my friend another gift. He’s legitimately hankering for Landry Jones merch. I may get him a No. 2. Or maybe, just maybe...a No. 40 Ralph Webb.
I once met a woman on a plane that had an away jersey that she wore to the home opener one season. Unfortunately for her, she got a huge blob of mustard on the front of it. But they won, so she refused to wash it the rest of the season. Another I heard were fans retiring jerseys after losing streaks and even, crazy enough, burning them in an exorcism ceremony.
While not football, in 2015 the Pirates played a crucial September game against the Brewers. My good Steeler Central buddy, Mike, was debuting his brand new Pedro Alvarez jersey. The Pirates were trailing and when Pedro came up, my wife ran her hand across the name plate on the back of his jersey. Pedro had a huge hit and RBI. So after that, the phrase “Rub my Alvarez” was born”. It quickly fell off into the abyss. But every time the Alvarez was rubbed, something big happened.
Not everybody is like me and feels the need to keep on buying an inordinate amount of jerseys. Responsible fans save their money for logical things like paying bills and lottery scratch-offs. Most fans have one go-to jersey they proudly sport. Share in the comments your jersey of choice, and your particular Steeler-wear superstitions.
For now I gotta go, I need to search online for my next big purchase, a Daniel McCullers jersey.