BTSC continues to rank the best numbers in team history on a standpoint of thriving over time throughout multiple players. It seems there are a few numbers which are always represented with quality play in Steelers lore. 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, 59, 36, 63 and 47 as it 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 24th. Enjoy.
24) No. 43
Most Notable: Troy Polamalu 2003-2014, Earnest Jackson 1986-1988 (pictured below), Frank Lewis 1971-1977
Current Wearer: Not Issued
Perhaps the most recognizable No. 43 is Troy Polamalu and that isn’t for his voice-acting role as Villager No. 2 in Disney’s Moana. The 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year retired as one of the most popular players in the history of the team. The 8-time Pro Bowler and 5-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. Next he is scheduled to be enshrined in Canton as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
Earnest Jackson joined his third team in four years when he joined the Steelers after the season began in 1986. Jackson was traded by the Chargers after leading the NFL in rushing in 1984 due to the Chargers signing of USFL standouts Gary Anderson and Tim Spencer. He landed in Philadelphia six days before the 1985 opener and had another 1,000-yard season. However he didn’t fit Buddy Ryan’s idea of a complete back and was waived after the second week of the 1986 season. Despite higher offers from other teams, Jackson felt the situation in Pittsburgh fit him best as they were second-to-last in the league in rushing. In only 13 games, Jackson had 910 yards for an average of 4.2 ypc and made the Pro Bowl. Furthermore, The Steelers ended up as the seventh-ranked rushing team in the NFL. The following season, Jackson’s TD production dropped to three (from five) but he remained the Steelers’ feature back. After struggling with production and injury in 1988, Jackson saw his time in Pittsburgh and the league end.
Frank Lewis was a No. 1 selection out of Grambling in 1970 and played seven of his thirteen seasons in Pittsburgh, including two Super Bowl victories. Lewis had 2,086 yards-receiving and 17 scores as a Steeler. In the postseason, this particular No. 43 gained 312 yards and had two touchdowns. As talented as Lewis was, the emergence of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth led the Steelers to deal Lewis to the Bills in arguably the worst trade in team history. Buffalo got Lewis for six seasons, 4,638 yards and 24 touchdowns. In return, TE Phil Seymour failed the physical and was returned to Buffalo with inexplicably no compensation whatsoever.
Check back tomorrow for the 23rd best jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers history. But first, here is a recap of the countdown so far: