Within the last day, we’ve seen new Steelers issued their official jersey numbers. Major news was made when Pittsburgh’s first round draft pick T.J. Watt chose his number (90) and local college hero, third round pick James Conner selected his (30).
However, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare when recent Steelers free agent acquisitions such as Justin Hunter and Coty Sensabaugh had their uniform digits published. In fact, it flew completely under the radar for most fans.
The official Steelers website roster confirms all of the new uniform numbers but doesn’t confirm whether or not Williams would be welcomed back for another season.
To date, the 34-year-old running back remains a free agent. He joined the Steelers in 2015 after spending his first nine seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. He was added by the Steelers to help spell Le’Veon Bell, who was suspended to start the 2015 season.
Instead of spelling Bell for only those games, Williams would end up starting ten when Bell was placed on Injured Reserve and lost for the season. Williams would set a career-highs in receptions and receiving yards while having his second-most rushing touchdowns in a season. He was a perennial offensive player of the week nominee with his best season since 2009 when he was selected to the Pro Bowl.
Williams carried that momentum into the 2016 season, once again as a placeholder for Bell; a fitting word to describe Williams, since the Steelers rarely lost pace with the previous 34 in the backfield.
However, with injuries taking their toll on Williams in both seasons, and the running back celebrating his 34th birthday, the Steelers have been mum on a potential return. Williams has stoked some speculation that he could be back, but following the signing of Davis and the addition of Conner in the draft, Pittsburgh could finally be saying goodbye to a solid player and an even better teammate in both the locker room and the community.
In past seasons we’ve seen former Steelers veterans re-signed by the team. Brett Keisel is one recent example who came back after remaining a free agent throughout the signing period. “The Diesel” returned near the end of the preseason for one last run, but even then the team didn’t issue his number 99 to another player.
In fact, Ben Roethlisberger arrived at one of the first days of training camp wearing 99, as a tribute to Keisel. Big Ben had done the same with Heath Miller‘s 83 to start last year’s camp as well, but Miller remained retired.
DeAngelo, on the other hand, has made no official announcement of his future plans. We can only guess at this time that allowing another player to take his number is not a good sign of having him come back.