Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Kwon Alexander has his new number — and it’s somebody else’s old one, as Alexander and outside linebacker Markus Golden have made a two-way jersey swap.
Alexander wore No. 26 in the preseason after signing with the Steelers while training camp at St. Vincent College was already underway. But running back Anthony McFarland Jr. also wore No. 26 in the preseason.
Offensive and defensive players sharing numbers is common in training camp and the preseason, but when it comes time for the regular season, something has to give.
Alexander said he had no special attachment to No. 26, and would gladly give it back to McFarland, who has worn it since his rookie season in 2020.
Alexander said he’d really prefer to wear a single-digit jersey as he did the last two seasons, wearing No. 5 with the San Francisco 49ers in 2021 and No. 9 with the New York Jets.
The Steelers, though, don’t seem to be a willing participant in that program. They let outside linebacker Melvin Ingram III wear No. 8 in 2021, but haven’t given out another single-digit jersey to a defensive player, forcing Patrick Peterson to wear No. 20 and Joey Porter Jr. No. 24 this offseason. They also wouldn’t let rookie tight end Darnell Washington wear No. 0
The other numbers that Alexander wore in his career aren’t available to him, either. He wore No. 58 twice, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, but that is unofficially retired in Pittsburgh for Jack Lambert. He also wore No. 56 with the San Francisco 49ers, which is held by Alex Highsmith,
Golden, meanwhile, has worn No. 44 his entire NFL career over nine seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants. It was already claimed by inside linebacker Tanner Muse when the Steelers signed Golden, so he picked 54. With 44 open, Golden went back to his more-familiar digits.
Alexander then took 54, one of the two remaining 50’s jerseys available. With 52 (Mike Webster), 58 (Lamber) and 59 (Jack Ham) all unofficially retired, 53 is the only available number the 50s remaining.
Linebackers have also traditionally worn numbers in the 90s and 40s. Now, they can technically wear any number except those in the 60s, 70s and 80s, though the Steelers have rarely allowed the old-school positional paradigm to shift.
Linebackers Mark Barron (26) and Marcus Allen (27) kept their numbers in the 20s after moving positions from safety.