Steelers rookie is gunning to be the first player to wear 'Number 1' in three decades

A dynamic young rookie in the Steelers 2024 draft class would like to be allowed to wear Number 1 for Pittsburgh.
Steelers Gary Anderson
Steelers Gary Anderson / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

As is well-known among Steelers players, many only sometimes get the jersey number they want. Darnell Washington didn't get his college number, nor did Patrick Peterson. Then he wanted #7, the number he always wore, but that was never going to happen. Others, like Russell Wilson, will get the number he has worn his whole career: #3. 

Interestingly, a Steelers rookie has strongly desired one of two jersey numbers. One is number 14, currently worn by George Pickens, making it unavailable. However, the other number he wore in college was Number 1. This jersey is unissued, presenting a potential negotiation opportunity. If the Steelers are willing to accommodate his request, he could be the proud wearer of Number 1.

We discovered his desire on the Steel Here podcast on May 8th. This rookie has not asked the Steelers if he could wear number 1 just yet. He knew they didn't allow Pickens to don this special jersey; thus, what chance would he have? His plan? Do his talking on the field allowing him to earn the jersey number of his choosing.

Which player wants #1

The rookie who wants number 1 is none other than rookie wide receiver Roman Wilson. For now, he will wear number 10. It still doesn't mean he couldn't get the jersey number he wants. The Steelers, who generally didn't take requests, have softened their stance a little, as they did with Patrick Queen earlier this year when they signed him as a free agent.

If he gets that number, he may have to prove himself in his rookie season, post some big numbers, and be a game-breaker. If so, he could potentially switch jerseys in his second season. Queen was an established veteran who brought a lot to the table; Wilson still had to prove that he could be the game-breaker most analysts think he could be. 

Thus far, he has looked impressive in the rookie minicamp, but that is a far cry from putting the pads on for their season opener. Looking good is one thing; winning games for you is another. If he proves that good, perhaps he should get the jersey he wants. However, there could be a huge sticking point with that. 

What could be the Sticking point?

If you know your Steelers history, only six players have worn number one, four of which were between 1935 and 1981. No player of any great significance wore it. Then, in 1982, the Steelers drafted place Kicker Gary Anderson to replace the floundering Dave Trout in the seventh round. He played for the Steelers for 12 years out of a 22-year career in the NFL. Nevertheless, his best years were with the Steelers. He wore number one.

It hasn't been used since, except in 1999, by Anthony Wright. Thus, it has not been worn in 24 seasons or 31 if you count 1993-1998. Some think jersey number 1 is semi-retired, like #'s 12, 58, 59, 86, 7, 36, 52, and 43. The problem is no one has acknowledged that it's out of circulation in honor of Anderson, though it's distinctly possible. 

The problem may be that once the number was not highly coveted. Many rookies are coming into the league, especially with the NFL rule changes on what numbers can be worn by which players; many of these rookies think they deserve number one, like Ja'marr Chase, but he has earned it. Many have not. 

Considering Chris Boswell has many records of his own, he may go down as the best placekicker in Steelers history. Plus, he needs to play four more seasons to tie Gary Anderson's 12-year mark. While Anderson may still deserve his recognition, it's not clear-cut that his jersey needs to stay out of circulation if that is indeed why the Steelers have not used it much.  

Thus, if Roman Wilson wants it, they should give it to him, but it's fair they should at least make him earn it. If he impresses fans and wins games, let the kid have it by all means. However, if he can't cut the Heinz Mustard his first season, some other hotshot rookie may deserve to wear number one someday.