Every kid who grew up in Pittsburgh and even pretended to care about football owned a Steelers jersey.
It is impossible to walk around the city without seeing an iconic Steelers jersey every few steps. Of course, it is a testament to the number of legendary players who wore black and gold that there are so many instantly recognizable jerseys from almost every era of Steelers football.
My first Steelers jersey was a knockoff Hines Ward, who I fell in love with after he won Super Bowl XL MVP honors. I imagine a lot of kids who began following the Steelers in the mid-2000s repped Ward with as big of a smile as he always had in his playing days.
I upgraded to an authentic Mike Wallace jersey during his rookie season. At the time, I fully expected him to become a franchise cornerstone. We all know how that turned out.
Now I rock a bumblebee Lawrence Timmons jersey, mostly because he is by far the best player on our defense now and I refuse to believe the Steelers will let him go.
That is my Steelers story. These jerseys have probably made their ways into the wardrobes of countless kids who proudly call themselves Steelers fans.
“Mean” Joe Greene (Nos. 72, 75)
Greene was the hero of any Pittsburgher who grew up in the Steel Curtain era of the 1970s and early ‘80s. The man was larger than life, with his famously callous demeanor and penchant for busting guts, literally.
Of course, all it took was a Coke to get Greene to smile. That commercial endeared him to football fans just as much (if not more) than his dominance on the field. Every kid probably wanted to be thrown a Mean Joe Greene jersey.
Jack Lambert (No. 58)
Speaking of dominant Pittsburgh defenders, Lambert is probably the best linebacker to ever wear black and gold. He was the heart and soul of the Steel Curtain for practically his entire career.
Older Steelers fans remember those days fondly, which is why you can always spot a few vintage "Lambert"s between the "Harrison"s and "Farrior"s at Heinz Field. The Steelers have had some great linebackers, but Lambert is and will probably always be the best.
Jerome Bettis (No. 36)
Every child of the ‘90s and early 2000s, Steelers fan or not, should respect The Bus. The man was not only the best power runner in NFL history, but he had the best sendoff of any player ever before Ray Lewis stole his thunder with his “last ride.”
He was the rallying point during the team’s 2005 Super Bowl run that no one saw coming. Watching him hoist the Lombardi Trophy as his last act as an NFL player was nothing short of magical.
Very few players inspired the adoring fanbase that Bettis did. If you did not have a Bettis jersey in that era of Steelers football, you better have rocked…
Hines Ward (No. 86)
Simply put, Ward is the man. He is my favorite Steeler and probably that of countless others.
Ward owns basically every Steeler receiving record, is possibly the most physical receiver in the modern NFL and has a million-dollar smile. He was purely a joy to watch.
Some people were put off by the glee on his face when he, say, broke Keith Rivers’ jaw. But that smile was nothing to be taken personally. It was as uncontrollably permanent as the black and gold that ran through his veins.
As I said, I proudly rocked Ward as a kid. When I think of Steelers greats, that smile is the first image that comes to mind.
Franco Harris (No. 7)
This is a no-brainer. Harris is the recipient of the Immaculate Reception and the most prolific rusher in Steelers history—of course his jersey was going to be popular.
Raiders fans must still have nightmares about Harris’ improbable touchdown. Steelers fans, on the other hand, still hang their hats on that play. Exhibit A: the statue of Harris mid-Immaculate Reception at Pittsburgh International Report.
Harris also stuck around Pittsburgh, becoming a political player as well as the co-owner of the Pittsburgh Passion (a female football team).
His legacy is the reason children of the ‘70s and ‘80s always sported his jersey, and his current work is why kids today still rock "Harris."
Ben Roethlisberger (No. 7)
Surprisingly, you do not see many Terry Bradshaw jerseys around Pittsburgh. Probably because of Failure to Launch.
Even more surprisingly, Big Ben jerseys are everywhere in da burgh. This makes sense for a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but not so much for someone who has been accused of sexual assault multiple times.
The weird part is that I have seen a lot of women wearing his jersey. The number of pink Big Ben jerseys you can see at every Steelers game might prove that his legacy is less tainted than we all thought it would be.
Anyway, Roethlisberger is inarguably the current face of the franchise. That is why children of the 2000s and ‘10s rock Big Ben jerseys with no shame.