PITTSBURGH — The Steelers don’t retire very many uniform numbers, with just three retired in the franchise’s history. It’s so rare that Franco Harris said he never even considered it as a possibility for himself until he got the call from team president Art Rooney II.
The jump from Harris to many of the Steelers’ other stars of the 1970s is not a large one, something Harris also acknowledged in his appearance on Tuesday.
So will there be a run on retirements as that cadre of players enters their 70s? It doesn’t sound like it, according to Rooney.
“We’ve taken our time doing this over the years,” Rooney said. “So, I don’t expect to be doing it very often. I think there will still be a rare occasion. As Franco said, it’s hard to make the decision, because we do have many players who are deserving. So I think we’ll just keep taking our time with it.”
Rooney said that the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception spurred the Steelers in acting on retiring Harris’ uniform number now. But there are plenty of those anniversaries coming up in the near future.
There’s the legendary 1974 NFL Draft class of Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Mike Webster along with undrafted free agent Donnie Shell. There’s Terry Bradshaw’s back-t0-back Super Bowl MVP awards in 1979 and 1980.
Those Steelers teams of the 1970s hardly need a reason to celebrate, and the team now has so much history that it’s hard not to stumble across an anniversary almost every season. This will also be the Steelers’ 90th season, a piece of recognition that seems to have gone by the wayside.
It just seems to be a matter of how far the Steelers want to take things. They’re already not circulating the jerseys of 10 or so more of their former stars, so it’s not an issue of available digits.
It’s just a question of deciding how many of the team’s multi-time Super Bowl winners, how many of the team’s Pro Football Hall of Famers, how many of the all-time greatest NFL players will be honored in that way for the Steelers. If it’s a difficult decision for the Steelers, as Rooney and Harris say, it’s the best kind of tough decision to have.