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, 31, 32, 52, 59, 36 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 15th. Enjoy.
15 No. 78
Most Notable: Max Starks 2004-2012, Tim Johnson 1987-1989, Dwight White 1971-1980, John Baker 1963-1967
Current Wearer: Alejandro Villanueva 2014-Present
Although Ben Roethlisberger was the buy of the 2004 draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Max Starks was the warranty and protection package that helped keep Big Ben in working order for many years. It was a good thing Starks was a ball boy for the Orlando Magic, that way the eigth grader could borrow sized 16 shoes from Shaquille O’Neal. After a college career at the University of Florida, Max (and his now sized 19 shoes) was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2004 draft. The 6’8” and 370 pounder became a starter the next season on the Super Bowl XL winner and again with the XLIII championship team. The Steelers released Max in July of 2011, but resigned him in October of that year. After starting all 16 games in 2012, Starks left for stints with the Rams, Chargers and Cardinals. He left the game after being released by the Cards at the end of camp in 2014. But Starks will be known always as being a huge presence on the offensive line for nine years in Pittsburgh.
Tim Johnson was a punishing defender and an All American on Penn State’s storybook National Championship team in 1986. Drafted in Round 6 in 1987, Johnson started 26 of 41 games in Pittsburgh and racked up 8.5 sacks. After a contract dispute following the 1990 season in which Johnson desired an average defensive tackle’s salary, The Steelers opted to trade him to the Redskins for a fourth-round pick instead of paying him. The pick netted Pittsburgh tight end Adrian Cooper, their ‘91 Rookie of the Year, but Johnson forged a solid career in Washington where he put up 20.5 sacks in six seasons and earned a Super Bowl ring his first season there. After a final single season in Cincinnati in 1997, Johnson retired after a solid ten years as a professional.
The greatest to wear No. 78 was Dwight White. A member of the fabled Steel Curtain, the intense “Mad Dog” was a four-time Super Bowl champ and is the first player to score points for the Steelers in a Super Bowl. White was drafted in the fourth round of the 1971 draft from East Texas State. Even though he was projected not to play in the game due to being hooked up to an IV in the hospital and losing 20 pounds because of suffering from pneumonia, White recorded a safety, sacking Fran Tarkenton in the end zone in Super Bowl IX. White was also known as the trash talker among the group. L.C. Greenwood once stated that it was hard to hear on the line with Dwight constantly talking. The two-time Pro Bowler spent all of his 10 years in Pittsburgh and recorded 46 sacks. Dan Rooney remembered White as “one of the greatest players to ever wear a Steelers uniform”. White was named to the Steelers All Time Team in 1982 and again in 2007. He retired after ten seasons after the 1980 season. Dwight passed away after complications from surgery in 2010.
John Baker had a ten-year career in the NFL and spent 1963-1967 as a defensive lineman for the Steelers. A teammate of famed coach Herman Boone (Remember The Titans) in high school, Baker was drafted by the Rams in the fifth round in 1958. After four seasons with LA and one with Philadelphia, Baker joined the Steelers for five seasons and forced eight fumbles. Baker also contributed to one of the greatest photos in NFL history (see below) by bloodying Y.A. Tittle in a game against the Giants in 1964. After a stint with Detroit in 1968, Baker retired and had a long career in law enforcement, becoming the sheriff in Wake Co., NC. Baker passed away in 2007 at the age of 72.
Check back soon for the 14th 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
19) No. 20
18) No. 63
17) No. 50
16) No. 34
15) No. 78