Identity in sports is paramount to a players success. There are players that will always be synonymous with their numbers. In Pittsburgh, one doesn’t really have to say the given names of Roberto Clemente, Terry Bradshaw or Mario Lemieux. It’s merely No. 21, No. 12 and No. 66. Those numbers are simply iconic.
As far as the Steelers go, there are only two numbers that have ever been retired— Ernie Stautner’s No. 70 and Joe Greene’s No. 75. Although never officially retired, nobody has worn the No. 12 made famous by Bradshaw since his 1984 retirement, nor have the digits of No. 32, No. 52 and No. 58 been handed out since Franco Harris, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster all left the Steel City in the 1980s. Recent Steelers legends such as Jerome Bettis (No. 36), Hines Ward (No. 86) and Troy Polamalu (No. 43) were the last to sport their specific numbers since their retirements. Some Hall of Famers were the second-to-last or third-to-last Steelers to don their particular digits. Jack Ham’s No. 59 was worn by LB Todd Seabaugh in 1984. Scott Shields (26 games in 1999/2000) and Ronald Stanley (1 game in 2006) were given Mel Blount’s No. 47 to wear, but it hasn’t been issued since. Dermontti Dawson made No. 63 famous from (1988-2000) and only L.T. Walton was issued it (2019), but he didn’t see game action.
When there is only one player, like a lot mentioned above, to make a number famous there are some numbers that have boasted by a host of players. One BTSC author has wondered aloud what is the most accomplished number in Steelers’ history. Through player and jersey value rankings found in Pro Football Reference, we have ranked the most successful numbers in Steelers history worn by various players. You won’t see numbers like 12, 58, 75, 32, 52 and most of the ones listed above in the grouping. This would be basically ranking an individual player over the other and not the cumulative effort. In today’s submission, we take a look at those ranked just out of the top 25— the Honorable Mentions. Enjoy.
Most Notable: James Farrior 2002-2011, Carlos Emmons 1996-1999. Loren Toews 1973-1983 (pictured below), Buzz Nutter 1961-1964
Current Wearer: Tuzar Skipper (2019 to Present)
Linebackers James Farrior and Loren Toews give this number the most juice and the distinction of six Super Bowl championships in seven attempts. Farrior played for ten years in black-and-gold after wearing No. 58 with the Jets. The First Team All Pro in 2004 was one of the hearts of the Steelers defense in Super Bowl XL, XLIII and XLV. Toews played eleven seasons in Pittsburgh and appeared in four Super Bowls. The Cal Bear played in 57 straight games until his retirement after the 1983 season.
Most Notable: Jason Worilds 2011-2014, Nick Eason 2007-2010, James Harrison 2002, Joel Steed 1992-1999, Keith Willis 1982-1991 (pictured below)
Current Wearer: Daniel McCullers (2016 to Present)
Yes, Deebo wore this number initially with the Steelers, but he made the one digit lower famous. The most accomplished Steelers to wear this number would be Joel Steed and Keith Willis. Steed, an eight-year load of a nose tackle from Colorado, earned a Pro Bowl bid in 1997. Willis may be one of the most unheralded Steelers of all time. He never made the Pro Bowl or was named All Pro, but he had seasons of 14 and 12 sacks in 1983 and 1986 respectively. His 59 total sacks land Willis as fourth all-time in the Steel City.
Most Notable: Brent Alexander 2000-2003, Willie Williams 1993-1996 and 2004-2005 (pictured below), Thomas Everett 1987-1991, Greg Hawthorne 1979-1983, Glen Edwards 1971-1977, Dick Haley 1961-1964
Current Wearer: Marcus Allen (2018 to Present)
There’s been a host of good players to wear the two and the seven. The hard hitting Thomas Everett came in and picked up where Donnie Shell left off, but didn’t stay too long. Willie Williams had two stints with the Steelers. His subbing for Rod Woodson in a Super Bowl year of 1995 was huge as he picked-off seven passes that season. Brent Alexander was a talented defensive back as well. But best among them, and the longest tenured, was Glen Edwards. Edwards played seven years for the Steelers and was very much a force at free safety during two Super Bowl wins. This No. 27 had 25 interceptions (tied 11th all-time in team history), went to two Pro Bowls and was the team’s MVP in 1974.
Most Notable: Isaac Redman 2010-2013, Richard Huntley 1998-2000, Byron “Bam” Morris 1994-1995, Merril Hoge 1987-1993 (pictured below), Harvey Clayton 1983-1986, John “Frenchy” Fuqua 1970-1976
Current Wearer: Trey Edmunds (2018 to Present)
A lot of running backs sported this digital identity over the years, with the most notable being Frenchy Fuqua and Merril Hoge. Fuqua held the single-game rushing record of 218 yards in a 1970 game until Willie Parker broke it in 2006. He was also a key factor in the greatest play of all-time with the Immaculate Reception intended for him. “The French Count” is also one of the flashiest Steelers of all time. Meanwhile. Hoge had one of the greatest playoff performances with 220 yards, two scores and 6.7 yards per carry over two games for the Cinderella story of 1989.
Check back soon for the 25th-placed jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the best jersey number stable in Steelers’ history.