The Steelers boasted no less than three future Hall of Fame players on the vaunted 'Steel Curtain' defense
Once again, we will take a look at the numbers on defense in numerical order that have not been and should never be worn again. Before we talk about the players of the iconic 'Steel Curtain' defense, we will first talk about a player who, in my opinion, was truly a transcendent player.
Troy Polamalu, who wore number forty-three (43), was drafted in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft. The Steelers made a significant jump in the first round in order to be able to draft Polamalu. He did not disappoint.
Polamalu played twelve seasons for us, went to eight Pro Bowls, was named All-Pro four times, was the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, and was recently elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Polamalu is arguably the greatest strong safety in Steelers history.
The next player up is arguably the greatest cornerback in franchise history. Mel Blount, who wore number forty-seven (47), was the quintessential 'shut down' corner who was so good at his craft that the NFL was forced to change how defensive backs engaged wide receivers.
What came to be known as the 'Mel Blount Rule' essentially backfired on those who thought that the rule would hinder the Steelers defense. Not only did the rule not hinder or alter the way we played defense, it actually helped our offense. No surprise that Blount was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after his career had come to an end.
Let's see who else on the defensive side of the ball has numbers that are unofficially retired.
The Steelers had two stellar linebackers on the 'Steel Curtain' defense
The reality about the 'Steel Curtain' defense was that every player was good in his own right. Two of our linebackers were exceptional. Jack Lambert, who wore number fifty-eight (58), was part of the legendary 1974 draft and was the 'rock' in the middle of the vaunted front seven.
Lambert was 'tough as nails', started as a rookie, which was unheard of back then, held the middle down for his entire career, and, like Blount, was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame shortly after his playing career ended. An injury derailed what was otherwise a stellar career.
While Lambert was a 'thumper', Jack Ham, who was drafted by us in the second round of the 1971 draft, was not only great against the run but was exceptional in coverage. Ham would be known today as a 'cover linebacker' and played with more finesse, for lack of a better term, than Lambert did. Ham recorded thirty-two interceptions during his career.
Full disclosure, number fifty-nine was worn the year after Ham retired by Todd Seabaugh, a third-round pick in the 1983 draft, but Seabaugh only played one season for us and number fifty-nine has not been worn since. Another full disclosure, I was 'hopping mad' when I saw Seabaugh wearing number fifty-nine. Thankfully, that only lasted one season.
Some bonus coverage, so to speak, as we had a kicker whose number has not been worn in nearly thirty years. Gary Anderson, who wore number one (1), was our kicker for thirteen seasons and is still the all-time franchise scoring leader. His number one still has yet to be worn and probably won't be any time soon.
That wraps up this particular discussion. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.