Well, the first installment of Pittsburgh Steelers By The Numbers was a huge hit with a lot of communities, and they’re all asking me when the next one is coming out, so the answer is…soon. In fact, so soon, that if you take a two hour nap you just might miss it.
We did the first 20 the other day, now let’s take a look at the best Pittsburgh Steelers players of all time to wear jerseys numbered between 21 and 40.
#21 – Amos Zereoue, Running Back (1999-2003)
This was a little tough, because both Mewelde Moore and Eric Williams deserved to be on this list as well, but Zereoue won out, because not only do I enjoy typing out torturous names, but because of his consistency to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a dual threat back, garnering some decent career stats in both the rushing and receiving games.
#22 – Bobby Layne, Quarterback (1958-1962)
Layne came to the Steelers towards the end of his Hall Of Fame career, and truly wasn’t the same player that he was in Detroit, but when you look at the others to wear the number, you find quite a few back-up defensive backs, who were all good players, but not when compared to Bobby Layne, even with his diminished Pittsburgh statistics.
#23 – Mike Wagner, Defensive Back (1971-1980)
Wagner racked up 36 interceptions, while also finding time to recover 12 fumbles during his career with the Steelers. He stuck around Pittsburgh for the entirety of his career, and was versatile enough to play either safety position for the team. He saw two back to back Pro Bowls during the 70′s.
#24 – Ike Taylor, Defensive Back (2003-2010)
J.T. Thomas could have been the selection here as well, playing the same position as Taylor, but coming up with more interceptions. I chose Taylor simply for the 92 pass deflections, because while he’s not giving the Steelers turnovers, he’s not allowing the other team to complete passes either.
#25 -Ryan Clark, Defensive Back (2006-Present)
No offense to another great #25 for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ronnie Shanklin, but the defensive side of the ball will always get the benefit of the doubt as long as we’re talking about the Steelers. Clark is mainly known for his big hits, the two most memorable of recent times are the ones on the Baltimore Ravens Willis McGahee, and the New England Patriots Wes Welker.
This was a no brainer. Like, seriously, absolutely no thought had to be put into this selection at all. Woodson was elected into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 2009, and is listed among the all time NFL leaders in both interceptions and interception yardage. Regarded by many as the best corner back of the 1990′s (an era that also featured prominent corner back Deion Sanders) due to his ability to not only make plays on the ball, but also to play the run.
#27 – Glen Edwards, Defensive Back (1971-1976)
Edwards picked off 25 passes in his time with Pittsburgh, forcing 8 fumbles and pouncing on 12 of them. He was a two time Pro Bowl selection during an era of Pittsburgh dominance. Along with his coverage skills, he also doubled as the team’s return man when needed.
#28 – Clendon Thomas, Running Back, Defensive End, Wide Receiver, Etc. (1962-1968)
Clendon beat out Chris Hope mainly because of his versatility. And when I say he’s versatile, I don’t mean that he’s a running abck that can line up at wide receiver, though he did both of those things. He also played long snapper, defensive end, and a little defensive back. He’s a great example of what people call a ‘throw back’ player, in the sense that he epitomized that era by playing anywhere that he was needed.
#29 – Barry Foster, Running Back (1990-1994)
Foster essentially beat out Ron Johnson because he was probably more important in terms of statistics, even though after his one 1,000 plus yard season he wasn’t spectacular. He was however, elected to two Pro Bowls, and did manage to consistently get into the end zone for the team.
#30 – Tom Tracy, Running Back/Full Back (1958-1963)
Both Frank Pollard and Chad Scott could make a run for this spot, but the way that Tracy played during an era where teams were geared to stop the run, makes what he did that much more special. Not only was he superb running the ball, but he could also catch out of the backfield extremely well, racking up the yards in both categories. He went to the Pro Bowl twice.
#31 – Donnie Shell, Defensive Back (1974-1987)
Shell played every year of his 13 year career in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform, and wore it proudly. He was named to the All Pro First Team three times, and the Pro Bowl five times, along the way racking up 51 interceptions, setting a tone for the future defensive backs to pass through Pittsburgh.
#32 – Franco Harris, Running Back (1972-1983)
Franco Harris is synonymous with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and with all time great NFL running backs. He was the on the receiving end of one of the best plays in NFL history – The Immaculate Reception. Along with that, he finds himself on the NFL’s all time rushing list, and has nine Pro Bowls to his name. Recently, he announced the Steelers second round draft selection, Marcus Gilbert at the 2011 NFL Draft.
#33 – Merril Hoge, Full Back (1987-1992)
John Fuqua deserves a mention as well, but Hoge did it well from the full back position, including a spectacular performance against the Denver Broncos in the 1989 NFL playoffs. He ran for 3,115 yards and 21 touchdowns while with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also caught for over 2,000 more yards, and 13 touchdowns.
#34 – Andy Russell, Linebacker (1963-1976)
A seven time Pro Bowler, and named to more All NFL teams in his service with the Steelers than one would care to list (though if you follow the PFR link on his name and scroll down you can see them all) Russell was the Steel Curtain before there was a Steel Curtain. Quoted among the best Steelers linebackers of all time, Russell picked off 18 passes, and recorded numerous tackles (unfortunately tackles weren’t officially kept back then, so we don’t have an exact number).
#35 – Dan Kreider, Full Back (2000-2007)
Kreider did the dirty work for guys like Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis. He took out the linebackers so that they could look good. In Bill Cowher‘s offense, the fullback was just as important as any other player, and watching Kreider play is really a throw back to a time when the Steelers used and needed a traditional fullback.
#36 – Jerome Bettis, Running Back (1996-2005)
Thanks to Andy Russell only wearing the number 36 during his rookie year, he saved me a huge headache. Bettis finds himself in good company on this list, and in good standing on the NFL’s all time rushing list as well. Known not only for his bulky frame and ability to run defenders over, he also possessed a superb agility nearly unheard of from a player with his size. He retired following a dramatic storyline in 2004-2005 that involved Ben Roethlisberger telling him that he would get him to the Super Bowl as long as he didn’t retire after the 2004 AFC Championship game loss against the New England Patriots.
#37 – Carnell Lake, Defensive Back (1987-1998)
Lake was a versatile defensive back, a one time All Pro and five time Pro Bowler. During the 1995 season, after Rod Woodson was injured, Lake was asked to play corner instead of his favored safety position and excelled. He was recently hired as the Steelers defensive backs coach, a position that suits him well.
#38 – Sidney Thornton, Running Back (1977-1982)
Thornton scored 18 touchdowns on the ground, while rushing for just over 1,500 yards for the Steelers. The number is waiting for an eventual great to claim it and re-write this history.
#39 – Bobby Walden, Punter (1968-1977)
No offense to Willie Parker, who certainly accomplished a lot while with the Steelers, but running backs are expected to perform well for this team, punters…not so much. Which makes Walden’s near 30,000 yards in field position impressive. He also had a few seasons where he was averaging over 45 yards per punt for the team.
#40 – Preston Carpenter, Tight End (1960-1963)
Carpenter played multiple positions, including tight end, running back, and took on the duty of returning punts for the Steelers. Another one of those guys during that era that thoroughly enjoyed being on the field no matter where he was playing.
As you can tell, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of numbers with the history fully entrenched, while others are just begging to be picked by that one special player that can make this list 10, 20, 30 years down the road.
In case you missed the first entry, you can check it out HERE.