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 9th. Enjoy.
9) No. 73
Most Notable: Ramon Foster 2009-2019, Kendall Simmons 2002-2008, Justin Strzelczyk 1990-1998, Craig Wolfley 1980-1989 (pictured below), Ray Mansfield 1964-1967
Current Wearer: Carlos Davis
Ramon Foster was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee in 2009, but he became valuable as an irresistible force and an unmovable object for the Steelers for eleven seasons. As a rookie, “the Big Ragu” competed with that year’s third rounder Kraig Urbik for a backup role at guard and won the spot. Foster ended up starting 4 games his inaugural year in Pittsburgh and 145 of 160 at his position, second most in team history. Ramon was a player rep and respected locker room leader for the black-and-gold. Foster recently told Steelers.com about his love for Pittsburgh, “It’s a genuine city that loves their players, loves the people. That is one thing you find out while being here in Pittsburgh. They make you feel wanted here.” Ramon, retired in March, now writes for DK Pittsburgh Sports.
Kendall Simmons, a first round pick of Bill Cowher’s squad in 2002, started the first two seasons of his career at guard, despite being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before 2003. Simmons was named the Steelers top rookie over Antwaan Randle El by taking home the Joe Greene Great Performance Award as the team’s Rookie of the Year. Injuries did start to plague the Auburn Tiger alum as he missed all of 2004 with a torn ACL, a frostbite injury in 2006 while watching Monday Night Football by falling asleep with a cooling device attached to his foot, and a season-ending Achilles injury that cost him twelve regular season games in 2008 and the postseason run that climaxed with a Steelers Super Bowl XLIII win. In between all of that, Simmons did start all 20 games in the magical Super Bowl XL season. The Patriots picked up Kendall after the Steelers released him in February 2009, but released him later that season. After a season-ending shoulder injury ended his 2009 season in Buffalo, Simmons retired. A veteran of 80 games for the Steelers, Kendall now works in the pharmaceutical industry as a patient advocate for Diabetes sufferers.
Unfortunately, Justin Strzelczyk may be best-known to movie goers for being portrayed in the movie Concussion, but he was so much more than that as a veteran of the Steelers for 133 games from 1990 to 1998. Drafted in the 11th round in 1990 out of Maine, the 6’6” 301-pounder started on the Steelers offensive line in 1992 and another 75 games in the six seasons that followed. Justin was a dominating presence for the Steelers during that time, including the AFC Championship season of 1995. In 1998, injuries started to mount and the Steelers waived Strzelczyk in 2000. Known for a friendly and fun-loving spirit, Justin reportedly suffered through demeanor changes after retirement. His life ended the morning of Sept. 30, 2004 during a 40-mile high-speed police chase in central New York when his pickup truck collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded, killing him instantly. After his death, it was deemed that Justin Strzelczyk was afflicted with CTE.
Craig Wolfley is a well-known familiar face and voice for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but ”Wolf” played ten years in Pittsburgh mostly at left guard. Arriving after the Super Bowl years of the 1970s as a fifith-rounder out of Syracuse, Craig was a key factor on a team that went to the playoffs four times during the 1980s. In 1981, Wolfley placed fifth in the World’s Strongest Man competition for the United States. He has also competed in sumo wrestling, martial arts, boxing, and weightlifting as well. A member of Syracuse University’s All-Century Team, Wolf is currently a sideline reporter for Steelers broadcasts.
Is this deja vu? Didn’t we just cover Ray Mansfield at 11th place for No. 56? Yes! However, Ray wore the No. 73 for four seasons from 1964 to 1967. So again, Mansfield was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1963 and joined the Steelers a year later. The man known as “Ranger” during his playing days started his career with the Steelers as a defensive tackle. Mansfield, who could place-kick also, was best known as a center during his 13-year Steelers tenure. The two-time All-Pro was a Super Bowl IX and X champion and played in 182 consecutive games for the Steelers. Ray passed away at the young age of 55 when he suffered a heart attack while hiking the Grand Canyon in 1996.
Check back soon for the 8th 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
14) No. 98
13) No. 68
12) No. 77
11) No. 56
10) No. 86