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Pittsburgh Steelers and Retired Numbers: The Two Just Don't Go Together

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 21:   Retired Quarterback Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers holds up his old number during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field on October 21, 2002 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won 28-10.(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Nick SignorelliSenior Writer ISeptember 2, 2010

I love it here on Bleacher Report.

It gives all of us the chance to speak our mind about the various goings on in the NFL. Freedom of speech at its finest.

Every day, when I log onto the site, I check out all the newest Steelers articles, comment when I can, and reply to any comments people have left me.

Then, on the Steelers page, I check the right hand side of the page, for the Steelers "Around The Web." There are some really great articles there. You should read some of them (after this one, of course!).

I read an interesting article from AOL's Fanhouse concerning the retirement of numbers of the legends of the Steelers.

In the article, it is asked, why players that are on the Steelers today are allowed to wear the numbers of some of the Steelers legends, such as Mel Blount, Joe Greene, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and others.

Since there is no clarity in the article about the reason why, allow me to answer that question for everyone.

First off, the Steelers have never retired a number. There are certain numbers that no player has worn since the player retired.

Terry Bradshaw and his No. 12 are one of them. Bradshaw became the first quarterback in the NFL to win four Super Bowls. Since that time, no one has worn his number.

 

There are others as well, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, and Mike Webster.

The question is posed then, how can the Steelers issue numbers such as 82 and 88 to Antwaan Randle El and rookie Emmanuel Sanders?

The reason is because until 2004, wide receivers and tight ends in the NFL were only permitted to wear numbers between 80 and 89.

It was an eligibility issue, so that the officials would be able to tell who was an eligible receiver, and who was not.

Since it would have been impossible for a team to eliminate numbers between 80-89, and still be able to dress the full compliment of the players at those positions, those numbers could not be retired.

Once the NFL added the 10-19 for receivers, the point was dead, because so many players had already worn those numbers so many times between the days of Swann and Stallworth, there was no point to retiring them.

As for Mean Joe Greene, many believe that his number should also not be given out, the offensive line (50-79) shares the same number situation with the defensive linemen (50-79, 90-99). 

There are only so many numbers to go around, and if we were to retire the numbers of the Steel Curtain, there would not be enough to field a team.

 

The other issue is, if you look at all of the amazing Steelers of the past, if you were to start to retire numbers, how many would you have to retire?

The Steelers currently have 20 players in the Hall of Fame. That is not counting Chuck Noll or Art and Dan Rooney. That would be 20 numbers that would be out of the circulation.

That is not counting the players that are currently on the team that have a legit shot at one day being in the Hall.

Ben Roethlisberger (only one QB with two Super Bowl Championships is not in, and Ben could end with more than two), Jerome Bettis, Hines Ward, and Troy Polamalu.

That is not to mention players that will one day be greats, that may not even be in football yet.

The fact is, if you start retiring numbers, then there is no way you can stop.

You can not cut off and say, well Bradshaw deserves to have his number retired, and Ben Roethlisberger doesn't.

You can not say that Mel Blount should, and Troy Polamalu shouldn't. How can you retire Franco Harris, and not Jerome Bettis?

It is a Pandora's box, that is just not worth opening.

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