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 multiple players since the 1960s. 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 19th. Enjoy.
19) No. 20
Most Notable: Will Allen 2013-2015, Bryant McFadden 2005-2008, DeWayne Washington 1998-2003, Erric Pegram 1995-1996, Dwight Stone 1987-1994, Rocky Bleier 1971-1980, Paul Martha 1964-1969
Current Wearer: Cameron Sutton
The No. 20 has been represented well in the Steel City over the years. Best known were Paul Martha, Dwight Stone, Erric Pegram, Bryant McFadden and the headliner of the group Rocky Bleier. The trio of Pegram (XXX), McFadden (XL, XLIII, XLV) and Bleier (IX, X, XIII, XIV) represented the Steelers and the numerals in all eight franchise Super Bowls.
Shady Side Academy’s Paul Martha was a consensus All-American at Pitt and was drafted in the first round and tenth overall by Pittsburgh in 1964. The running back-turned-safety played six seasons for his hometown team before one more year in Denver. Martha intercepted 15 balls in four seasons at safety with the Steelers. During his tenure with the Men of Steel, Martha earned a law degree from Duquesne and was an executive VP, general counsel and CEO with the Penguins, executive vice president and general counsel of the 49ers, ran the Civic Arena and was general manager of the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers. He was also a mediator for the NFL players and owners throughout the years. Martha is now retired and while not as known as players from the 1970s, he was a standout for the Steelers in the 60s,
Dwight Stone was arguably one of the fastest Steelers of all time, being timed at 4.2 in the 40-yard dash. In fact, Chuck Noll called him “the fastest player I’ve ever coached over 40 yards”. The running back, receiver, returner and gunner was versatile for Noll and Bill Cowher over his career in Pittsburgh. Undrafted out of Middle Tennessee State, Stone gained 3,017 total yards and had 14 touchdowns as a Steeler. After eight years in Pittsburgh, Dwight spent six more seasons in Carolina and with the Jets before retiring and becoming a police officer in Charlotte. Stone almost collided with this author on the sidelines of a game in 1992— I escaped injury by running like a scared baby. Mr. Stone and I had a chance to talk about the near disaster and have become friends.
Erric Pegram (the spelling is correct) only spent two seasons in Pittsburgh, but they were solid. Platooning with Bam Morris in 1995, Pegram led the Super Bowl runners-up in rushing with 813 yards. He also shared ball-carrying duties with Jerome Bettis the following season and gained 509 on the ground. The former 1,000-yard rusher came to the Steelers from the Falcons via free agency after Barry Foster departed the team following the loss in the AFC Championship. The change-of-pace runner turned down more money from the Packers to get a chance to play in a Super Bowl, which he did in the Steelers loss to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. Ironically the Packers won the big game a year later. An avid enthusiast of the television classic “Sanford and Son”, Pegram averaged 4.3 yards per carry and gained 1,322 yards with six scores in his time with the Steelers. In 1997, Pegram left the Steelers and split time that season with the Giants and Chargers before retiring.
Florida State’s Bryant McFadden was drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft and had nine career interceptions for the black-and-gold. McFadden came up huge as a rookie in the legendary playoff game against the Colts. After the infamous Jerome Bettis fumble, B-Mac tipped two consecutive Peyton Manning passes away from Reggie Wayne in the end zone. The Colts had to settle for a field goal attempt which Mike Vanderjagt missed, saving the Steelers season. McFadden won a Super Bowl ring a few weeks later and earned a second one with the team in 2008. After that season, he moved on to Arizona before returning to the Steelers for another Super Bowl appearance in 2010. The Steelers actually received McFadden back from the Cardinals in a trade which sent the 155th overall pick in the 2010 draft to Arizona for McFadden and the 195th selection. The Cardinals made the move to draft quarterback John Skelton while the Steelers picked up a certain wide receiver who earned four All-Pro selections before going forcing his way out of town. McFadden was released in February 2012, but his time in Pittsburgh was one of heroics.
Robert Patrick Bleier, a four-time Super Bowl champion and member of the 1966 National Champs while at Notre Dame. More impressive, he is also a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. After his rookie season, No. 26 was drafted into the U.S. Army and was sent to Vietnam where a grenade blew off part of his foot. While recovering, Rocky received a note of encouragement from the Chief Art Rooney Sr. that read “Rock-the team’s not doing well, We need you.” A year later, the Rock returned, this time wearing No. 20 and became an important cog in the Steeler’s offensive machine. Bleier retired after the 1980 season with 3,865 rushing yards, 136 receptions for 1,294 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Check back soon for the 18th best jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers history. But first, a recap of the countdown so far.
Honorable Mention: No. 51, No. 93, No. 27 and No. 33
25) No. 24
24) No. 43
23) No. 83
22) No. 67
21) No. 53
20) No. 10