The fourth volume of LWOPF’s history of Pittsburgh Steelers jersey numbers looks at those who wore jersey numbers 30 through 39. These men were stars and role players, who wore the jersey with pride, just like those who came before them. These men helped form the Steelers in to one of the great NFL franchises.
History of Pittsburgh Steelers Jersey Numbers: Volume Four
Number 30: Larry Anderson
Larry Anderson was a reserve defensive back for the Steelers. He was drafted in the fourth round out of Louisiana Tech in 1978. Anderson played for the Steelers through the 1981 season, making his mark as a kick returner. He averaged 23.5 yards on 122 returns, including one for a touchdown. Anderson’s most valuable contributions to the Steelers came during the 1979 postseason, where he averaged 27 yards per return. with a long of 45 yards. Anderson returned 16 kicks for 387 yards, in six postseason games with the Steelers. He ranks second all-time in team history in kick returns (122) and yards (2,866), trailing only Rod Woodson.
Number 31: Donnie Shell
Donnie Shell signed with the Steelers as a rookie free agent out of South Carolina in 1974. He was a valuable member of the Steelers four Super Bowl teams of the 70’s. Shell was an extremely hard hitter, a sure tackler, and ranks third in franchise history with 51 interceptions. He was a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. Shell was an obvious selection for this list. He is an inaugural member of the Steelers Hall of Honor, along with 26 other former players and coaches.
Number 32: Franco Harris
The history of Pittsburgh during the Super Bowl era begins with Franco Harris. Harris changed the fortunes of the Steelers franchise on December 23rd, 1972, with the Immaculate Reception. Harris involved himself in the play by running down field looking to block someone. His attention to detail put him in position to catch that deflected ball, launching a dynasty. Harris rushed for 11,950 yards and scored 91 touchdowns during his career. He surpassed 1,000 yards eight times. Harris won MVP honors in Super Bowl IX after running for 158 yards and a touchdown. He was a part of four Super Bowl championships and 19 postseason games. Harris is one of the greatest money backs of all-time, resulting in his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.
Number 33: Merril Hoge
Merril Hoge was the Steelers tenth round draft pick, out of Idaho State, in 1987. Hoge possessed good size at 6’2″ and 225 pounds, along with an excellent work ethic. He was the classic overachiever, making him an attractive prospect, despite coming from a small school. His greatest game with the Pittsburgh Steelers was a playoff game on January 7, 1990. Hoge rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown against the Denver Broncos, but the Steelers lost in the final minutes.
Number 34: Fran Rogel
Fran Rogel was drafted by the Steelers in the eighth round of the 1950 NFL Draft. The North Braddock native played eight years for the Steelers, and never missed a game. Rogel is part of one of the best Steelers related stories in the history of the franchise. Walt Kiesling used to start every game by running Rogel up the middle. The fans used to chant “Hey Diddle Diddle, Rogel up the middle.”
Art Rooney suggested that Kiesling start a game off with a pass. Kiesling didn’t want to disrespect the Chief, so he ordered one of his lineman to jump offsides. Jim Finks threw a touchdown pass, but it was called back due to the offsides penalty. The very next play was Rogel up the middle. Rogel retired in 1957, after eight seasons, as the Steelers all-time leading rusher. He finished with 3,271 yards and 17 touchdowns on 900 carries. Rogel made his lone Pro Bowl appearance in 1956.
Number 35: John Henry Johnson
John Henry Johnson played for Pittsburgh from 1960 through 1965. Johnson was 31 years old when he got to the Steelers, but provided them best the years of his career. He went over 1,000 yards twice, giving the Steelers two of their most successful seasons to that point. Johnson is the oldest running back in franchise history to gain over 1,000 yards in a season, accomplishing that milestone in 1964. He played six seasons for the Steelers, rushing for 4,381 yards and 26 touchdowns on 1,006 attempts. Johnson is a big part of the history of Pittsburgh, defining what they sought in a running back. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, after waiting 17 years for induction.
Number 36: Jerome Bettis
Jerome Bettis was born to be a Pittsburgh Steelers running back. They traded for him during the 1996 NFL Draft to help re-establish their ground dominance. Bettis quickly established himself by running through and around defenders, becoming a fan favorite in the process. He was beloved by his teammates, consequently disproving the rumors of being a locker room cancer with the Rams. His main goal during his career was leading the Steelers to a Super Bowl title. Bettis contemplated retirement after the 2004 season, following three AFC Championship game losses in nine years. Ben Roethlisberger promised him a ring if he came back for one more season.
Bettis returned in 2005, and as a result, Roethlisberger delivered on his promise. The Steelers made it to Super Bowl XL after a historic postseason run, despite the odds against them. Bettis retired as a Super Bowl Champion in his hometown. He rushed for 10,571 yards and scored 78 touchdowns during his career with the Steelers. Bettis was a two-time First-Team All-Pro and a six-time Pro-Bowler. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, following five years of eligibility.
Number 37: Carnell Lake
Carnell Lake was drafted by the Steelers in 1989. Drafted as a linebacker but converted to safety by Chuck Noll, Lake started 15 games during his rookie season. He played ten seasons with the Steelers, bringing a physical presence to the secondary. Lake picked off 16 passes during his career, returning three of them for touchdowns, recording 21.5 sacks as well. He moved over to right cornerback after Rod Woodson tore his ACL, and as a result, stabilized the secondary. He proved to be just as good of a cornerback as he was a safety, helping lead the Steelers to Super Bowl XXX. Lake, a key member of the Blitzburgh defense of the 90s, recently returned to serve as the Steelers defensive backs coach.
Number 38: Sidney Thornton
Sidney Thornton was a second round draft pick in 1977 out of Northwest Louisiana State. Thornton served as a backup for most of his career, despite being viewed as a critical part of the running game. The majority of Thornton’s playing time occurred during the 1979 season, when he started ten games. He rushed for 585 yards and six touchdowns on 118 carries. He played with the Steelers for six years, rushing for 1,512 yards and 18 touchdowns. Thornton was part of two Super Bowl teams.
Number 39: Darren Perry
Darren Perry was an eighth round draft pick of the Steelers in 1992, after starring for Joe Paterno at Penn State. Perry became the first rookie to lead the team in interceptions since 1955, although he defended the fewest amount of passes. He put himself in positions to make plays, due to mastering the defense through preparation and intelligence. Perry developed his football I.Q. as a quarterback for Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake, VA.
Perry was the quarterback for the defense, therefore in charge of calling the signals and lining everyone up. He intercepted 32 passes during his Steelers career as a result of knowing where to be, returning one for a touchdown. Perry was a big hitter and was never afraid to mix it up, despite his lack of size. He forced four fumbles throughout his career, and recovered eight more. Perry played 13 postseason games for the Steelers, including Super Bowl XXX.
The history of Pittsburgh Steelers jersey numbers, Volume Four, covered three Hall of Fame legends, and seven Super Bowl players. Furthermore, it provided interesting stories and background information on ten players who helped the Steelers become one of the NFL’s great franchises. Rogel’s story may have been the most interesting, although he’s not a champion or a Hall of Fame player. The history will continue when volume five takes a look at the players who wore jersey numbers 40 through 49.