The Jersey Rules Committee has seen its share of change over the decade of meetings outside the Metrodome and Target Field. Names have changed, jerseys have changed, even a few of the rules have changed to help remain relevant in an fluctuating market of NFL products.
One thing we know for sure, the Steelers will always revert to the mean.
We stand by our selections of last year's finalists, even if some of them were pretty poor choices in retrospect - Maurkice Pouncey, Isaac Redman, Heath Miller, Antonio Brown and eventual champion, Cortez Allen.
Simply put, a few of them did not repeat as finalists. A few of them are Don't Buys now, in fact.
Such is the life of things in the realm of the Jersey Rules Committee.
For those who are not aware, the Jersey Rules Committee was put together in an effort to provide guidance and instruction on the purchase of the "right" player's jersey for the upcoming season. We have rules that have stood the test of time, and we've weighed countless requests for rejection and addition.
Establishing the market for the right jersey to buy is a tiresome task, one that's made bearable by the consumption of malted hops before the viewing of a certain losing baseball team in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The distraction of a sport with zero governance regarding the usage of jerseys (we stopped trying in 2006 when we saw the Red Sox release their Players Pregame Bowel Movement Jersey) helps get to the core of a sport that allows teams to wear just one throwback jersey in two games a season.
Interestingly enough, the Steelers have announced they will only wear their throwback jerseys once in 2013, for reasons they have not mentioned.
The bees kind of grew on the Committee, to be honest. While rules on throwback jerseys are based on the player as opposed to the actual jersey, they are still covered, and advised for purchase in accordance with the same regulations.
We determine four categories: Don't Buys, Qualifiers, Finalists and Champion. There is no set amount of members in the Don't Buys and Qualifiers categories, but there must be at least three finalists, including the champion.
As the rules below will explain, the idea here is to buy the jersey of the player who has the best combination of exclusivity (i.e. it's not the jersey one out of three fans own, including that loser at the bar wearing a Pouncey jersey who, when complimented on his choice, said "I don't know who he is, I thought the name was funny. Yes, a male said this. More on the Awkwardness Rule in a minute), likelihood of standing out and modest but rising popularity among Steelers fans and fans of the NFL.
Bonus points rewarded for general "coolness" of a player, leadership among the team and likely impact of that player on the team.
The Oversaturation Rule:
"While allowable, it is discouraged to buy the jersey(s) of the most popular player(s)."
One of the marks of a true fan is the ability to identify and support the efforts of a lesser-heralded player. The Superstar player can't help being popular, but think of it more as spreading the love, and starting your own group of fans of a player who deserves the attention.
Or, a real life scenario, you go to a bar to watch a game and there are 50 people there in Steelers jerseys. Of those 50 jerseys, 46 of them are Troy Polamalu's. There's nothing wrong with that, but wouldn't you rather have someone that 96 percent of the people in attendance don't have?
The Bandwagon Rule (Silverback Clause):
"A breakout Steelers player will emerge every year. Find the breakout player before he breaks out. Conversely, be careful not to join the masses in buying his jersey a year too late."
This is the foundation on which the Jersey Rules are based. It's more directional than prohibitive, and it challenges the fan to know the team. Get the player's jersey before the market for his jersey becomes saturated.
It's named after former Steelers OLB James Harrison - a shining example of the value of the Jersey Rules. He was a perfect jersey to buy in 2004-07, then he was thrust into the national spotlight. By the time he was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, he was one of the greatest stories in franchise history.
The Commitment Rule (Dermontti Dawson Clause):
"A player has to be assured of being on the team for at least another few years."
This is named after Dermontti Dawson, who, in the early and formative years of the Committee, was the heart and soul of the franchise, leading someone close to the Committee to purchase his jersey because "I know he isn't going anywhere."
Those who purchased Mike Wallace jerseys in 2009 (after nearly becoming the first rookie to ever make the list, thus negating the Wary Rookie Rule, more on that in a minute) or after being named Champion in 2011 can attest to this. Wallace's name reached four-letter status last year, and that's when he was on the team. Now he's not, it will draw even more negative attention (yes, there's a rule for that too).
Arguably, no other rule is more important on its own than the Commitment Rule. Extra points are given to the guys who just got contract extensions. Certainly, it's caveat emptor if you're assuming a player will sign an extension at some point (like Wallace), but it's not impossible either, so this rule advises fans to be smart and do some research.
The Throwback Rule (The Steel Curtain Clause):
"A former player reaches Throwback Status when he has been retired from the league for five years, or has a combination of five years having played on a different team and is out of the league (aka the Rod Woodson Clause). If that player plays five years or more outside of Pittsburgh, then retires, a one-year waiting period is required."
Sadly, this rule will likely be re-named for Harrison at some point in the future. Harrison is not currently on the Steelers. If he retires in 2014, he will be off the team for one season. Four years after that, in 2018, Harrison's jersey will be eligible to be worn.
If somehow we turn around on Wallace, and he retires from the Dolphins in 2019, one season must be played before his jersey would be eligible to be worn.
This is easily the most controversial rule, and it's the one that seems to be creatively, and incorrectly, interpreted. While the Committee has heard hundreds of exception requests, it has denied all but one - official jerseys with Super Bowl XL, XLIII or XLV patches may be worn at all times.
The Committee's first official endorsement was Hines Ward before the 2001 season. It was worn every season through his retirement. Hines Ward jerseys cannot be worn until 2016 - the fifth year since his retirement. However, the Committee implemented The Hines Ward Rule, in which Ward jerseys can be worn during the Steelers' Week 17 games to honor is 1,000th catch, which came in Week 17 of the 2011 season.
As it does every year, the Committee apologizes, but you must get a new jersey. Retire Ward in the manner he deserves to be retired, but it's time to move on.
It's worth pointing out as well James Farrior jerseys with duct tape over his last name, and "Spence" written in sharpie on that duct tape is by no means acceptable. Sean Spence is a viable option (more on him in a minute), so buy a Sean Spence jersey. We must support who we are, not who we are not.
A corollary to this is Recyclization, which is continuing to wear the jersey of a player before the five-year mark, and claiming it's a Throwback.
Recyclization draws a penalty, and detracts points from your fan credibility. Those who have earned Throwback status are to be honored, not cheapened by the inclusion of players who simply have not spent enough time out of the organization in order for their contributions to be fully realized.
As we are seeing with the absence of Ward, his memories and legacy are getting better and stronger each day. Don't use the excuse of claiming he's already a throwback because you refuse to spend the money on a new jersey.
No one said being a fan was easy. Don't cut corners.
The Wary Rookie Rule (Troy Edwards/Chris Rainey Clause):
"Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) in purchasing a rookie's jersey - in particular, the first-round choice. While it does fit the Commitment Rule, and the Steelers are known for an excellent track record selecting in the first round, it does not guarantee future success, but rather, suggest less than adequate research was done. The player hasn't proved himself yet, fans should encourage him to be among the team before becoming a standout on the team."
We've added Chris Rainey's name to emphasize this rule covers more than just first round draft picks. Rainey generated a good amount of buzz last year before the season, then fell flat on his face (and proceeded to act as if he's injured). A solid kick returner, he had zero impact as a running back, and even if he wasn't released due to a run-in with the law, he may not have even made the team in 2013.
Don't buy rookie jerseys. They haven't proven themselves yet. Just avoid buying them for now. You don't know what's going to happen. Give them a year to see how they fit with the team, and whether this player is someone you feel represents the franchise.
It doesn't matter what they did in college, they need a year with the Steelers to earn inclusion.
The Dress the Part Rule (fka The Pirates Rule):
"The cheaper alternative is rarely better. Buy the real thing."
The name of this rule was officially changed with the resurgence of the Pirates this season, but it's based more on their success over the last two years. It used to be poking fun at the Steelers far-less-successful neighbors, now, the Steelers should be taking lessons from them.
This rule, simply put, mandates fans to buy the real thing. If an "official" jersey is selling for $30, there's a reason. The Committee is not interested in stories about how someone a person knows flies to China four times a year and the "real" jerseys can be bought on the streets. If it isn't real, it isn't real, and an objective eye can tell the difference.
People have tried to stump the Committee on this before, and the Committee welcomes all challengers. We can identify mistakes, knock-offs, incorrect sizing of letter, changes in font or anything else that shows a Steelers jersey is not official.
If a stitched jersey is selling on a web site for anything less than $270-$300, there's a reason. It's not real. Do. Not. Shortcut. The. Jersey.
This isn't to say you have to buy the real game jersey. The screen-printed jerseys on sale through the league or the team is perfect acceptable. Those are running for about $80 now. If the price is lower than either of those for those products, just avoid it. Don't try to justify it, the excitement of getting a great deal is clouding your judgment.
We won't highlight every jersey not to buy, just the ones that have specific reasons to avoid purchasing.
Defensive end Brett Keisel is again on this list, although with each year he remains on the roster, we're happy to admit we were wrong. At some point, though, the party must end, and one of the few remaining players who were on all three Steelers Super Bowl teams will be gone. Wear it if you have it now, and wear it with pride, but do not buy a new one.
Same goes for Ryan Clark. Typically, it's a good idea to avoid the purchase of a jersey of any player who's in the final year of a contract, especially if that player is over the age of 31. He doesn't have to be old, either. Emmanuel Sanders is a Don't-Buy due to his contract situation. Odds are extremely low he'll be back in Pittsburgh...but we've been wrong before. Until we know, avoid Sanders.
Isaac Redman and his backfield counterpart Jonathan Dwyer both make the Don't Buy list this year, because it's possible neither are on this team next year. One may stick, though, but for now, it's a good idea to move past them.
Ziggy Hood has never made this list one way or another, but he's playing for a new contract this year as well, and his return isn't close to certain.
The Committee has noticed its preference for second-year players - Wallace in 2010 as well as Cortez Allen last year, and Maurkice Pouncey drawing a finalist spot in 2011. It's hard to avoid the second-year player, considering their jerseys should never have been purchased, thus making them uncommon right off the bat. We can't say we were against Wallace, or Pouncey, and certainly not against Allen last year. It's that this team is getting younger, thus making more appealing long-term options. It's never right to ignore the future when it comes to jerseys.
The future, like qualifiers Robert Golden, isn't set, but taking risks is part of being a fan. Like a 2-year-old Scotch settling in an oak cask, Golden isn't quite ready yet, but qualifying status is a good position for him.
Considering he's the only receiver with youth, and experience, it's really hard to ignore Antonio Brown, who has, surprisingly, not yet reached Oversaturation status.
Lawrence Timmons has been on this list in one way or another since 2009. This is largely due to the fact the Steelers drafted him seemingly when he was 16 years old, or he stopped aging for a few years earlier in his career. He's 27, has multiple years left on his deal and was the Steelers leading playmaker last year. It's time to send Timmons some love.
He's the only recognized finalist, which is a first for the Jersey Rules. Why?
Because for the first time ever, we have two champions.
This player continues to impress, and is carrying some huge expectations. Those expectations have been created through no fault of ours, but rather, the remarkable level of improvement this player has shown. He's a true example of a rebounding scouting department, having turned himself into a turnover machine at the end of the last year.
He's the only repeat champion in Jersey Rules history. He is No. 28, CB Cortez Allen.
But the Committee could not recognize Allen alone the way it did last year at the expense of the 320-pound elephant in the room. This mass of humanity is poised to break out, an unquestioned playmaker and ultimately a likeable guy the rest of the league will know by the end of this season, he fits the key elements of jersey selection better than anyone else but Allen right now.
The Committee knew the very second BTSC exploded with the news of another team flirting with this player this offseason. On one hand, the site was filling with comments demanding he be retained. On the other, an extended email had to be written to the editor of Acme Packing Company, upon his request, explaining who this player was.
That email was ended with, "whether he's on the Steelers or the Packers in 2013, trust me, by the end of the year you'll know why Green Bay is talking to him now."
He is No. 90, nose tackle Steve McLendon.
2013 Jersey Rules Committee selections
DEs Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood, S Ryan Clark, RBs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, OLB Jason Worilds, WR Emmanuel Sanders
S Robert Golden, WR Antonio Brown
LB Lawrence Timmons
CB Cortez Allen (first repeat champion ever!) and NT Steve McLendon
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