Steelers History By The Jersey Numbers- Vol.4 takes a look at who wore jersey numbers 30 through 39, throughout the history of the franchise. These players may be stars, or role players, but either way, they wore the uniform of the greatest football team on the planet and are a part of the history of what has become the greatest franchise in sports.
Jersey number 30: Larry Anderson
Larry Anderson was a reserve defensive back for the Steelers, drafted in the fourth round of the 1978 NFL Draft, out of Louisiana Tech. Anderson played for the Steelers from 1978 through the 1981 season, and made his mark as a kickoff return man, averaging 23.5 yards on 122 returns, including one for a touchdown. His biggest impact as the primary return man came during the postseason in 1979, where he averaged 27 yards per return, with a long of 45 yards. In a total of six postseason games that he played with Pittsburgh, Anderson returned 16 kicks for 387 yards, averaging 24.2 yards per return. Anderson ranks second all-time in team history for kick returns (122) and yards (2,866), trailing only Rod Woodson.
Jersey number 31: Donnie Shell
Donnie Shell came to the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent out of South Carolina State in 1974. He was a key member of the Steelers four Super Bowl teams of the 70’s, and the secondary for most of his 14 years. Not only was he an extremely hard hitter and a sure tackler, Donnie Shell also had a nose for the football. Shell ranks third all-time in franchise history with 51 interceptions, to go along with his 19 career fumble recoveries. He may not be as well known as the other members of the famed Steel Curtain defense, but he was every bit as valuable. In 2002, Donnie Shell was a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where hopefully he will one day reside.
Jersey number 32: Franco Harris
In 1972, on December 23rd, the fortunes of the Steelers franchise changed forever because of one player, who finished off the most famous play in NFL history. Franco Harris, who wasn’t supposed to be involved in the play, ran down field looking to block someone. His attention to detail, which he learned under Joe Paterno at Penn State, put him into position to catch a ball that was deflected by Jack Tatum and rumble to the endzone, giving the Steelers their first ever postseason victory. That 13-7 win over the Raiders launched a dynasty. During his twelve year career with the Steelers, Franco rushed for 11,950 yards and scored 91 touchdowns. In eight of those seasons, Harris surpassed 1,000 yards. In Super Bowl IX, Harris took home MVP honors after running for 158 yards and a touchdown, on 34 carries. Franco Harris was a part of four Super Bowl championships with the Steelers, and 19 postseason games in all. In those games, Harris carried the ball 400 times for 1,556 yards and 16 touchdowns. One of the greatest money backs of all-time, Franco Harris was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.
Jersey number 33: Merril Hoge
In the 1987 NFL Draft, in the tenth round, the Steelers selected a running back out of Idaho State named Merril Hoge, who played with a throwback mentality. At 6-2 and 225 pounds, Hoge had good size, intelligence, and an excellent work ethic. He was the classic overachiever, who had the ability to do whatever was asked of him whether it was blocking, running the ball, or catching it out of the backfield. Hoge was a member of the Steelers for seven years, and during his time in Pittsburgh, he ran the ball 819 times for 3,115 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also caught 241 passes for 2,054 yards and another 13 touchdowns. His greatest game with the Pittsburgh Steelers may have been on January 7, 1990, in a playoff game against the Denver Broncos. The Steelers had held the lead until the game’s final minutes, with the help of Hoge’s 120 yards and a touchdown, on 16 carries, in addition to his 60 yards on 8 receptions. All but 5 games of his NFL career, which ended after a series of concussions, were played in the Steel City.
Jersey number 34: Fran Rogel
Fran Rogel was drafted by his hometown team in the 8th round of the 1950 NFL Draft. The North Braddock native played eight years for the Steelers, from 1950-1957, and never missed a game. Walt Kiesling, head coach of the Steelers during that time, used to start every game by running Rogel up the middle, and each game, the fans used to chant “Hey Diddle Diddle, Rogel up the middle”. One time Art Rooney suggested to Kiesling that maybe he should start the game off with a pass. Not wanting to disrespect the Chief, Kiesling ordered one of his lineman to jump offsides, to nullify the play. As luck would have it, quarterback Jim Finks ended up throwing a touchdown pass, but the play was brought back due to the offsides penalty. The very next play was Rogel up the middle. At the end of his 8 year career, in 1957, Fran Rogel retired as the Steelers all-time leading rusher, with 3,271 yards and 17 touchdowns on 900 carries. He also caught 150 passes for 1,087 yards and two touchdowns. Rogel made it to one Pro-Bowl in his career, which was in 1956.
Jersey number 35: John Henry Johnson
John Henry Johnson played six years for the Pitsburgh Steelers, from 1960-1965. Even though the Steelers didn’t get him until he was 31 years old, the Steelers got the best six years of Johnson’s career, including both years that he went over 1,000 yards rushing. With Johnson in their backfield, the Steelers had two of their most successful seasons up to that point in their history. John Henry Johnson, who was cut from the same cloth that Jim Brown was, is the oldest running back to go over 1,000 for the Steelers, which he did in 1964, when he pounded out 1,048. For his career in Pittsburgh, Johnson rushed 1,006 times for 4,381 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also caught 106 passes for 814 yards and six more scores. in 1987, John Henry Johnson was finally elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after being a finalist for 8 years.
Jersey number 36: Jerome Bettis
Jerome Bettis was born to be a Pittsburgh Steelers running back. He had just enough attitude, size, and was a quality individual, who somehow fell out of favor with the Rams. The Steelers wasted no time trading for Bettis during the 1996 NFL Draft, as they needed someone who could help re-establish their ground dominance, and Jerome Bettis was their man. From the moment Bettis arrived in Pittsburgh, it was evident that he was unlike any other Steelers running back in recent memory. He had equal ability to run through defenders as he did to run around, or by them. The motivating force behind Jerome was to win a Super Bowl title, and after multiple losses in the AFC Championship games, the last one in 2004, Bettis thought about calling it quits. A promise by a rookie quarterback, and prodding from other teammates, brought “The Bus” back for one more shot at Super Bowl glory. After the greatest run in postseason history, the Steelers made it to Bettis’s hometown of Detroit, to fulfill their promise of helping Jerome go out as a Super Bowl Champion. As Bettis held up the Lombardi Trophy, he announced to the world that the Bus’s last stop was indeed Detroit. In ten years with the Steelers, Bettis rushed for 10,571 yards on 2,683 carries, scoring 78 touchdowns. He also caught 125 passes for 806 yards and 2 more touchdowns. Jerome Bettis was a 2 time First-Team All-Pro and a 6-time Pro-Bowler who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, his fifth year of eligibility.
Jersey number 37: Carnell Lake
Carnell Lake came to the Steelers in the second round of the 1989 NFL Draft as a linebacker out of UCLA, and converted to Safety by Chuck Noll. The versatile and athletic Lake started and played in 15 games during his rookie season and never looked back. During his ten seasons with the Steelers, Lake intercepted 16 passes and returned three of them for scores, while racking up 21.5 sacks and forcing 15 fumbles. Perhaps his greatest achievement though, came in the 1995 season, when he moved over to RCB to take over for Rod Woodson, who tore his ACL in the opening game of the season. By being so unselfish, Carnell Lake proved to be just as good of a cornerback as he was a safety, and helped lead the Steelers to Super Bowl XXX. A valuable member of the Blitzburgh defense, Carnell Lake is now serving as the defensive backs coach for the Steelers.
Jersey number 38: Sidney Thornton
Sidney Thornton was a second round draft pick by the Steelers in the 1977 NFL Draft, out of NW Louisiana State, serving mostly as a situational ball carrier for most of his career. The most action that he ever saw in any season was in 1979, when he started 10 games, rushing 118 times for 585 yards and 6 touchdowns. For his six year steelers career, Thornton carried the ball 356 times for 1,512 yards, scoring 18 touchdowns. Sidney Thornton played on two Super Bowl Championship teams, and saw action in Super Bowl XIV, where he caught a pass for 20 yards, gained 4 yards on 4 carries.
Jersey number 39: Darren Perry
Darren Perry came to the Steelers as an 8th round draft pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, and immediately became a fixture in the secondary. He proceeded to become the first rookie to lead the Steelers in interceptions since 1955, when he picked off six passes. While Perry was never the biggest or the fastest guy to play the position, he was one of the smartest, and always put himself in a position to make plays and avoid mistakes. Over his seven years with the Steelers, Perry totaled 32 interceptions, including one for a touchdown and forced four fumbles while recovering 8. Perry played in 13 postseason games for the Steelers, including Super Bowl XXX.