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. 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 17th. Enjoy.
17) No. 50
Most Notable: Ryan Shazier 2014-2019, Larry Foote 2002-2008 and 2010-2013, Earl Holmes 1996-2001, David Little 1981-1992, Jim Clack 1969-1977, John Reger 1955-1963
The Steelers had some very good players sporting the five-zero over the years. Here’s a look at the notables.
In 12 years with the Steelers, David Little had 10 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries and was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1990 season. Drafted to the Steelers in the seventh round in 1981, the Consensus All American and University of Florida Hall of Famer was the brother of an NFL Hall of Famer, Larry Little. David passed away at the young age of 46 when a cardiac flutter while lifting weights caused 250 pounds to drop on his chest, roll to his neck and suffocate him. Th middle linebacker will be remembered as one of the most reliable and dominant defenders for the Steelers in the 80s.
Ryan Shazier accomplished a pretty amazing body of work in a small amount of time. The Steelers’ top pick in 2014 out of Ohio State had 299 tackles, seven sacks and seven interceptions. What he might have accomplished during a full career, we most likely will never know due to his career-threatening injury in 2017. Shazier was a field general on defense and his dominating performance against Cincinnati in the 2015 Wild Card Game made the victory possible by forcing two fumbles late in the game.
Larry Foote, a fourth-round selection out of Michigan in 2002, was a solid performer for the Steelers in two stints with the team, three Super Bowl appearances, and two championship rings. Foote’s breakout year came in his fourth season, the one that culminated in Super Bowl XL and the hoisting of the Lombadi. His interception in the AFC Championship in Denver thwarted a tide-turning drive and helped get the Steelers and Foote back home to Detroit for the big one. After a second championship in 2008 but a reduced role behind Lawrence Timmons, the Michigan native was released and signed on for one season with his hometown Lions. Returning after a year away, Foote resigned with the Steelers for four more years and was released in 2013. He then spent a season with the Cardinals before a transition into coaching. After a four-year stint as the linebackers coach in Arizona, Foote performs that same role currently in Tampa Bay. All in all, Larry Foote was a productive player for eleven total seasons in Pittsburgh.
When Earl Holmes was selected in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Florida A&M, the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year reportedly congratulated Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher for selecting “the best linebacker in the draft”. Holmes mouth didn’t write checks his talent couldn’t cash. He was a leader on defense for six seasons in a Steelers uniform. The inside linebacker had 546 tackles (35 for loss), nine sacks and four fumble recoveries for the Steelers before moving onto Cleveland via free agency. After one remarkable season as a Brown, Holmes spent three seasons as a Lion before retiring. After serving on his alma mater’s coaching staff, Holmes became the head coach for the Rattlers in 2012, but was fired after a 6-16 record. A lawsuit for not honoring the contract was filed by Holmes and is still pending. Known as “Hitman” in Pittsburgh, Holmes allegedly voiced regret for leaving Pittsburgh via free agency all those years ago.
Jim Clack, a guard out of Wake Forest, started 50 games for the Steelers in seven seasons for the team from 1971 to 1977 and was a part of two Super Bowl winning teams (IX and X). Clack was originally signed by Chuck Noll as an undrafted free agent, but was cut. On his third attempt in 1971, the under-sized lineman stuck with the team. A terrible trade sent Clack to the Giants for Heisman runner-up and Outland Trophy winner John Hicks. Hicks was injured in his first series in training camp and never played for the Steelers. Clack ended up going to three Pro Bowls as a Giant. The former Steeler suffered from four years of neck and throat cancer before dying of an atrial fibrillation at the age of 58 in 2006.
Pitt’s John Reger continued his playing career as an undrafted rookie for the Steelers in 1955. The pride of Wheeling West Virginia was a linebacker/guard for Pittsburgh and was known as one of the better two-way players in the league. Reger made three Pro Bowls from 1959 to 1969, started 90 games in nine seasons and had nine interceptions along with 17 fumble recoveries for the Steelers in his nine years there. Reger added six more picks for the Redskins in his final three NFL seasons. Reger passed away at the age of 82 in 2013.
Check back soon for the 16th 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.