In Parts One, Two, and Three of Steelers Digit Dynasty, BTSC examined the best of the best to wear the numbers from 0-75 in franchise history. This time around, our journey takes us through No. 99. We will answer such burning digital questions like:
- Will T.J. Watt’s four-year accomplishments place him as the all-time best nine-zero already?
- Who is keeping Jason Gildon, Louis Lipps and Brett Keisel off of the list?
- Which No. 1 Picks failed to win their specific number?
In the final installment of the four-part “Digit Dynasty” series, we recognize the best Steelers players in franchise history to wear numbers 76 to 99.
We will see. Let’s take a look.
Part Four: Numbers 76-99
Note: Years provided came from The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 Media Guide
No. 76 DT John Banaszak (1975-1981)
The former head football coach at Robert Morris and Washington and Jefferson is a three-time Super Bowl champ in Steel Town. Hailing from Cleveland, the Banaszak family were Browns fans and needed to adjust to John suiting up for their hated rivals. Banaszak started at defensive end in Super Bowl’s XIII and XIV. After seven years with the Steelers, John won a USFL title with the Michigan Panthers in 1983.
Other Notables: DL Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb 1961-1962, DE Kevin Henry 1993-2000, DT Chris Hoke 2001-2011
Current Wearer: OL Chukwuma Okorafor
No. 77 OT Marvel Smith (2000-2009)
Smith started 108 games at the tackle position in Pittsburgh. The second-round pick out of Arizona State was valuable as Ben Roethlisberger’s blind-side protector during both Super Bowl victories. Marvel spent his entire nine-year career in black and gold and went to the Pro Bowl in 2004.
Other Notables: G Steve Courson 1978-1983, OT Carlton Haselrig 1989-1993, OT Will Wolford 1996-1998, OT Marcus Gilbert 2011-2018
Current Wearer: OT John Leglue
No. 78 DE Dwight White (1971-1980)
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. 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 pneumonia, White recorded a safety, sacking Fran Tarkenton in the end zone in Super Bowl IX. The two-time Pro Bowler spent all of his 10 years in Pittsburgh and recorded 46 sacks. Unfortunately, Dwight passed away in 2010.
No. 79 OT Larry Brown (1971-1984)
Brown started his career wearing No. 87 and playing tight end. He caught a touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl IX. In 1977, Brown changed his position to OT and his number to No. 79. Brown was a solid presence on the line, earning a Pro Bowl nod late in his career in 1982. Brown is one of 22 players to play in all four Super Bowls in the 1970s. He spent 14 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Other Notables: DE Lou Michaels 1961-1963, OT John Rienstra 1986-1990, OT Trai Essex 2005-2011
Current Wearer: OL Rashaad Coward
No. 80 CB Jack Butler (1951-1959)
During nine seasons in Pittsburgh, the Butler did it. The cornerback picked off 52 passes, which was good for second in team history. A member of the league’s 50th Aniversary team and a four-time Pro Bowl selection, Butler was enshrined in Canton in 2012, a year before his passing.
Current Wearer: WR Matthew Sexton
No. 81 TE Elbie Nickel (1947-1957)
Regarded as one of the best tight ends ever to play the game in Pittsburgh, Nickel caught 329 balls for 5,131 yards and 37 touchdowns. Nickel was a three-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Steelers’ All-Time team.
Current Wearer: TE Zach Gentry
No. 82 WR John Stallworth (1974-1987)
From that epic draft class of ‘74, Stallworth became Bradshaw’s most reliable go-to-guy in later years. The Hall of Famer was productive later in his career, having his best season with career highs of 80 catches, 1395 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1984. He ended with 537 receptions and 63 scores. Stallworth, who now owns a portion of the team, was selected to 3 Pro Bowls and is a member of the Steelers All-Time team.
Honorable Mention: WR Yancey Thigpen 1992-1997, WR Bobby Shaw 1999-2001, WR/KR Antwaan Randle-El 2002-2005 2010
Current Player: WR Tyler Simmons
No. 83 TE Heath Miller (2005-2015)
This was a three-way battle between Miller, Buddy Dial and Louis Lipps. Miller got the nod for defining the tight end position in Pittsburgh. The first rounder in 2005 served as Ben Roethlisberger’s safety valve in the passing game. Twice a Pro-Bowler, his 592 career receptions rank him second in franchise history. Heath, who retired prior to the 2016 season, sits at third in team history with 592 receptions and fourth with 6,569 receiving yards.
Other Notables: WR Buddy Dial 1959, WR Theo Bell 1976-1980, WR Louis Lipps 1984-1991
Current Wearer: WR Anthony Johnson
No. 84 WR Antonio Brown (2010-2018)
His story is now complete in Pittsburgh and while his actions have him firmly as persona not grata in Pittsburgh, there’s no denying what AB did to the Steelers all-time record book. Brown led the NFL in 2015 with the second-most receptions in a single season in league history and boasts the single-season mark for yards and receptions in club history with 1,834 and 136 respectively. In his nine seasons as a Steeler, Brown ranks second on the team’s all-time receptions and second all-time in receiving yardage. His 17 receptions for 284 yards in 2015 against Oakland are both team records for a single game. The six-time Pro-Bowler and five-time All-Pro is the only player in NFL history to surpass 1,000 yards in receiving and returns in a single season. Brown caught a touchdown pass in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl victory after the 2020 season.
Other Notables: DE Bill McPeak 1951-1952 and 1954-1957, WR Buddy Dial 1960-1963, TE Randy Grossman 1974-1980, TE Mike Mularkey 1989-1991, TE Jerame Tuman 1999-2007
Current Wearer: WR Rico Bussey
No. 85 WR Calvin Sweeney (1980-1987)
In eight seasons with the Steelers, The 6’2” Sweeney caught 113 balls for 1,775 yards and seven touchdowns. He has the distinction of being the last player to catch a pass from Terry Bradshaw.
Current Wearer: TE Eric Ebron
No. 86 WR Hines Ward (1998-2011)
With 1,000 career receptions, Ward is tops all-time when listing the best Steeler receivers. His 12,083 receiving yards ranks him 23rd in NFL history. One of the most popular players to wear the black-and-gold, Hines was a devastating blocker when he didn’t have the ball. The 14-year veteran was a four-time Pro Bowler, a three-time All-Pro, a two-time Super Bowl champ and the Super Bowl XL MVP. A member of the Steelers All-Time Team, the Dancing With The Stars-Mirror Bowl winner also wore #86 and scored a touchdown for the Gotham Rogues in The Dark Knight Rises.
Other Notables: WR Jim Smith 1977-1982, TE Eric Green 1990-1994
No. 87 TE Mark Breuner (1995-2003)
The Steelers first-round selection in 1995 stayed for nine seasons. Known primarily for his blocking skills, Breuner caught 137 passes and scored 16 times in Pittsburgh.
Other Notables: WR Roy Jefferson 1965-1969, TE Larry Brown 1971-1976, WR Weegie Thompson 1984-1989, TE Adrian Cooper 1991-1993
Current Wearer: TE Kevin Rader
No. 88 WR Lynn Swann (1974-1982)
Swann was the Steelers’ first selection of the phenomenal 1974 draft. Over nine seasons, the Hall of Famer collected 336 receptions for 5,462 yards and 51 scores. Swann, who was knocked out with a concussion in the 1975 AFC championship, unbelievably returned to the lineup in Super Bowl X and garnered MVP honors with 161 yards receiving and two highlight-reel catches. Swann, who was the Athletic Director at USC, his alma mater, was selected to the Pro Bowl thrice and named All-Pro three times. He is a member of the Steelers All-Time team and the NFL’s 70s All-Decade Team.
Other Notables: WR Andre Hastings 1993-1996, WR Courtney Hawkins 1997-2000, 1988 Terance Mathis 2002, WR Emmanuel Sanders 2010-2013
Current Wearer: TE Pat Freiermuth
No. 89 TE Bennie Cunningham (1976-1985)
The Steelers’ top choice in the 1976 draft was the tight end from Clemson. Cunningham spent a decade with the Steelers and was a contributor on the Super Bowl XIII and XIV teams. Bennie snagged 202 passes for 2,879 yards. Cunningham, who passed away in 2018, had 20 TDs in his 10-year career.
No. 90 T.J. Watt-LB (2017-Present)
Watt supplanted Steve McLendon on the list after only one season with the Steelers in 2018. Now going into his fourth season, his 34.5 sacks during his first three seasons cements his merit on this list. If his average of 11.5 sacks per season continues for the next four seasons, T.J. would be tied as the all-time leading sack master at that point. Watt is counted on to be a defensive leader well into the next decade.
Current Wearer: Watt
No. 91 (Tie) Kevin Greene (1993-1995) and DE Aaron Smith (1999-2011)
This is going to spark huge debate, but here goes.
Aaron Smith, named to the Sports Illustrated 2000s All-Decade Team, spent 13 seasons in the trenches for the Steelers. The Pro Bowler had 453 tackles and 44 quarterback sacks during his career. The blue-collar Smith is a two-time Super Bowl Champion and had appeared in five AFC Title Games. However, Hall of Farmer Kevin Greene played like one in the mere three seasons that he spent in Pittsburgh. Absolutely dominant in his Steeler syears, the Herculean Green had 35.5 sacks and 154 tackles during that short tenure. Imagine if he had arrived in Pittsburgh as a rookie in 1985.
Other Notables: LB Jerrol Williams 1989, Stephon Tuitt 2014-Present
Current Wearer: DE Stephon Tuitt
No. 92 LB James Harrison (2004-2012 and 2014-2017)
James Harrison is the choice. Harrison owns the franchise sack lead of 80.5. But the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year honor and the Super Bowl XLIII interception return seals it for the man they call “Deebo”. Harrison is a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and two-time Steeler MVP. Harrison initially wore No. 93 in Pittsburgh.
Other Notables: DT Keith Gary 1983-1988, LB Jerry Olsavsky 1989, LB Jason Gildon 1994-2003
Current Wearer: DE Isaiahh Loudermilk
No. 93 DE Keith Willis 1982-1991
For ten years, Willis was an underrated force for the Steelers. The undrafted free agent out of Northeastern in 1982 twice had double digit sacks (14 in 1983 and 12 in 1986). The current defensive line coach for the Titans ranks fourth all-time in Steeers sacks with 59.
No. 94 LB Lawrence Timmons (2007-2016)
Timmons has been a steady performer since being Mike Tomlin’s first-ever draft selection in 2007. The hulking linebacker played in 16 games as a rookie and his playing time increased during the Super Bowl XLIII season. Timmons recorded 5 tackles in the big game victory over Arizona in Tampa. The “Law Dog” was named All-Pro and went to his first Pro Bowl in 2014. Timmons left for the Dolphins in 2017.
Current Wearer: DE Tyson Alualu
No. 95 LB Greg Lloyd (1988-1997)
The man who once wore a t-shirt that read “I wasn’t hired for my disposition” was a difference-maker on defense. The dominance of Greg Lloyd was first apparent when he three-counted out a Jets player, in 1989. Lloyd, the leader of the famed “Blitzburgh” defense of the 1990s, ranks eighth among all-time team leaders with 53.5 sacks and second with 15 fumble recoveries. The five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and two-time Steelers MVP is a member of Pittsburgh’s All-Time Team.
Other Notables: DL John Goodman 1980-1985, LB Jarvis Jones 2013-2016
Current Wearer: DT Chris Wormley
No. 96 DT Brentson Buckner (1994-1996)
Buckner, a second-round pick from Clemson in 1994, suited-up for three seasons with the Steelers. After missing the first three games of his rookie year, Brentson played the remainder of the season, including both playoff games, and also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Buckner started in Super Bowl XXX. Before being traded to Kansas City, the big defensive lineman tallied eight sacks for the Steelers.
Current Wearer: DE Isaiah Buggs
No. 97 DE Cameron Heyward (2011-Present)
It took Heyward until his third season to break out. He has emerged as a locker room leader and a dynamo on the field. With 54 sacks, Cam is eighth all-time in team sacks. Heyward is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and twice a first-team All-Pro. Cam’s all-out play and dedication to the city puts him in the conversation with his father, Ironhead, as a Pittsburgh football legend.
Current Wearer: Heyward
No. 98 NT Casey Hampton (2001-2012)
”The Big Snack” was a beast that clogged up the middle for over a decade. Hampton came up big with a sack in Super Bowl XL and is regarded as the best nose tackle ever to squeeze into the black-and-gold jersey. Casey was selected to the Pro Bowl five times and was named to The Steelers’ All-Time Team.
Other Notables: DT Gerald Williams 1986-1994, DL Oliver Gibson 1995-1998, LB Vince Williams 2013-2020
No. 99 LB Levon Kirkland (1992-2000)
A team-MVP in 1998 and 1999, Kirkland was a long-time stalwart and leader on defense. The two-time All-Pro cranked out 808 tackles and 11 picks in his Steelers days. Kirkland was named to the All-Decade team for the 90s.
Other Notables: DL Darryl Sims 1985-1986, DE Brett Keisel 2002-2014
Current Wearer: DE Henry Mondeaux
These are the digits that define the decades...who will be next?
Check out Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the Digit Dynasty Series