Steelers receiver will look to change stigma behind infamous jersey number

The Steelers drafted George Pickens in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Here’s why he will have to overcome the stigma attached to his new number.

A number is exactly that… just a number. So when the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 rookie class selected their new jersey numbers many will carry with them for years, we shouldn’t think much of it.

However, while some numbers have become iconic in the Steel City, others have a very negative stigma attached to them. One of those is number 14. This just so happens to be the number second-round wide receiver, George Pickens, selected from the pool.

The first Steelers player who probably comes to mind is Neil O’Donnell. The former Pittsburgh quarterback from the early 90s had some successful seasons during his five-year stint. However, when it comes to the history of wide receivers to ever wear number 14 for the Steelers, the results have not fared well.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, just four receivers who have made the 53-man roster have worn this number on game day. Ray-Ray McCloud was the most recent to do so. Sadly, the backup slot receiver and punt returner might have been the best receiver to do so.

Pickens needs to rewrite Steelers history of number 14

For fans who still remember Limas Sweed, the name leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. Back in 2008, Pittsburgh selected a big, athletic receiver out of Texas. Sadly, his hands were so awful following wrist surgery during the senior year that Pittsburgh had to cut him in his second season.

Years later, Steelers fans were excited about the size and speed Sammie Coates would bring to the table, but his hands were just as bad. Like Sweed, he lasted just two years on Pittsburgh’s roster. Neither receiver went on to do much of anything after their time with the Steelers.

As a prospect, George Pickens might be considered the best of the group, but analysts were quite high on Sweed and Coates at the time also. Obviously, there’s no curse on this number that will somehow cause Pickens to have a terminal case of the drops.

While hands weren’t an issue for Pickens in college, he does enter the NFL with some baggage of his own. The young wide receiver has a personality that has rubbed many the wrong way. In fact, numerous reports suggest that multiple teams had Pickens off their draft board entirely for what they labeled as character and maturity issues.

These are something we obviously hope don’t follow him during his NFL career. Steelers fans have had to put up with far too many issues at the wide receiver position in recent years.

Regardless, Pickens will be given a chance to rewrite history and really make number 14 his own. Of course, this is assuming that he sticks with this number after cut-down day and into the 2022 season. Let’s hope he changes the stigma of this number that has not been good to us in the past.