If you’re like me, you approach buying your football jerseys very carefully. Some people like to have a stockpile of them, but others only keep one or two in the closet.
When you’re part of the latter, like me, and don’t buy a new jersey often, a lot of thought must be put into your purchase. You must consider many factors including age, skill, and contract status.
Do you roll with the superstar? The breakout candidate? The hot rookie?
It’s a tough decision, and I’m here to help you make the best investment with your money.
Buy: Antonio Brown #84
If you’re looking to buy a Steelers jersey, look no further than Antonio Brown. Brown is the Steelers biggest star and arguably their best overall player. For awhile he was an under-the-radar player, but now his face is plastered all over Twitter and TV commercials.
Not only is he a bonafide superstar, he’s entering the 2017 season with a fresh contract. Brown’s new deal will make him a Steeler for life and continue his tenure for five more seasons.
Who’s to say he won’t play more after that too?
If you want a safe buy and to own the jersey of the best wide receiver in the league, this choice is obvious.
Avoid: Martavis Bryant #10
One of the sexiest names on the Steelers offense is Martavis Bryant. He’s a freak of an athlete and a big-time playmaker. Even though he’s coming off of a year-long suspension, he has fans salivating over his potential.
While a great player, I cannot recommend buying his jersey. All signs point to Bryant having turned his life around, but you must approach a player coming off a year-long suspension carefully.
Even if Bryant does stay clean, there’s no guarantee he stays with the Steelers long-term. He currently has two seasons remaining on his contract and it’s possible the Steelers won’t be able to afford to keep him; and they might not want to, given their knack for drafting wide receivers.
Buy: James Conner #30
It doesn’t take much to pitch to somebody why they should buy a James Conner jersey. He is a hometown hero having played at the University of Pittsburgh and is famous for beating cancer prior to his junior season.
Beyond these reasons, he is the kind of bruising running back that Steeler fans have always loved. It was recently announced that Conner, a third round pick, has the top-selling rookie jersey in the league… and with good reason.
I’m not a big fan of buying rookie jerseys, but given Conner’s story, there are more good reasons to buy than reasons against.
Avoid: Le’Veon Bell #26
This may be the most controversial player on this list.
There’s no denying that Le’Veon Bell is a star and the best running back in the league. He may become the best rusher in Steelers history.
One might think his uniform would be a no-brainer to buy, but given his contract status, I can’t in good faith recommend doing so. Bell will be playing the 2017 season on the franchise tag, which is a one year deal. This means that in 2018, the Steelers will need to negotiate a new contract for Bell or tag him again.
Most think the two sides will be able to work out a deal, but given Bell’s history with injuries and suspensions, negotiations may be tricky. There’s a possibility that Bell could or could not be with the team beyond 2017. If he gets a new contract following this season, then you should go out and buy his jersey. Otherwise, Le’Veon’s number 26 isn’t a wise purchase at this time.
Buy: Ryan Shazier #50
I’ll admit, buying a Ryan Shazier jersey is a risk. He will be playing the 2018 season on his 5th-year option but is not guaranteed to be on the team beyond then. The Steelers do not work on deals with players two years in advance, so we are in another wait and see approach with Shazier. The least I can offer is that if you buy his jersey now, you will get two years of wear out of it. If you feel that’s a good investment, go for it.
If you’re on the fence, however, consider Shazier also has a history of getting injured. Will that play into a future long-term deal? I’m not sure.
So, to answer the question, why would you get Ryan’s jersey?
Because he’s awesome.
Shazier has gradually become the best player on the Steelers defense. He’s a cornerstone. His elite athleticism allows him to fly all over the field and go from rushing the passer to dropping into coverage seamlessly.
It also helps that he has a cool last name.
I would be willing to bet that Shazier gets a nice fat contract next offseason. If he continues where he left off in 2016 he is capable of becoming one of the best linebackers in the league. Everybody likes getting a superstar jersey and he could be the next in line for that billing.
The purchase may be a gamble, but the rewards outweigh the risks.
Avoid: T.J. Watt #90
It was a tough decision putting T.J. Watt on this list, but it goes along with my personal philosophy of not buying rookie jerseys.
I understand the appeal of getting the hot young player entering town, who could be the next big thing. But a lot of risks go along with such a purchase.
We don’t know how Watt’s career will go. It may be an unfair comparison, but using Jarvis Jones as an example, but he’s the most recent first round bust whose jersey now populates the clearance rack at your local Giant Eagle.
Watt also has an injury history that has the potential to derail his career. I obviously hope all of these scenarios never happen and he goes on to become a pass-rushing star. However, I prefer to stick with the safe options when buying jerseys.
Watt isn’t safe.
Buy: Cameron Heyward #97
I don’t think everybody remembers quite how good Cam Heyward is. The defensive end led the team in sacks in 2015; a very respectable feat for a defensive end.
A pectorial injury cut his 2016 season short, but all signs indicate a return to dominance in 2017. Heyward is a force in the run game and as a pass rusher. He is arguably the best player on the defense, and as such, is their captain.
While it seems like he’s been around for awhile and it may seem late to get his jersey, he is only 28 years old and still has four years remaining on his contract. If he plays as long as Brett Kiesel did, Cam still has six years left in Pittsburgh!
If you want to own the jersey of one of the Steelers best and most underrated players, then a Heyward jersey is a great choice.