The best Steelers to wear each number: 30-32
Each week of the 2021 offseason, Steel City Underground will look back at some great careers to find out which Steelers were the best to wear each jersey number. Stay tuned to see which fan favorites or forgotten greats are mentioned in this weekly series!
This week, we’re stepping back in time to look at members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who wore jersey numbers 30 through 32.
#30 – Chad Scott
There may be some debate among post-2000 fans that running back James Conner should have been at the top of the list for the Pittsburgh Steelers who wore No. 30. Looking at the full list of players, however, Scott – a cornerback – crept his way to our top spot.
Scott was drafted by the Steelers at the 24th overall pick of the 1997 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, he played in just 13 games but snagged two interceptions and recorded 47 tackles (45 solo). He raised his game over the next few years when he moved from right corner to left corner. Between 2000 to 2003, Scott recorded 15 (of 21 career) interceptions for 333 yards (return) and four touchdowns. 2001 was his best season with the Steelers; he recorded five interceptions for two touchdowns (his longest went for 62 yards). Scott also recorded 19 pass defenses that season with 71 solo tackles, and four tackles for a loss.
#31 – Donnie Shell
It’s almost impossible to not put a Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee in this spot and Shell is arguably one of the best players ever to don the black and gold for the Steelers. After an All-American collegiate career at South Carolina State University, Shell was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Steelers, where he played his entire professional career. A former linebacker, Shell transitioned to strong safety where he still holds the title with 51 interceptions at that position.
One of the most famous stories about Shell was how the 5’11” safety, nicknamed “Torpedo”, delivered a stadium-shattering blow to fame rusher Earl Campbell. During the first quarter of the Dec. 3, 1978, game with a division title on the line, Shell hit Campbell as he tried to spin out of a tackle, forcing a fumble that Pittsburgh recovered; Campbell left the game with a broken rib and the Steelers handed the Houston Oilers a 13-3 loss. Shell, part of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense, would help the Steelers to their third Super Bowl championship that same year.
During his career (1974-87), Shell recorded 51 interceptions for 490 yards and two touchdowns while becoming a four-time Super Bowl champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV), five-time Pro Bowl player (1978–1982),
three-time First-team All-Pro (1979, 1980, 1982), second-team All-Pro (1981). Shell played in 201 games for the Steelers, was chosen as a finalist for the NFL’s 100th Anniversary Team, and, on Jan. 15, 2020, announced as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Centennial Class.
#32 – Franco Harris
Set aside the “Immaculate Reception” and NFL fans worldwide will still recognize the name, Franco Harris. Due to his career with the Steelers, his long-time association with the team, and media exposure in later life, Harris is one of the most well-known Steelers of all time.
A former Nittany Lion at Penn State, Harris was both a blocking back, a rusher, and a capable receiver out of the offensive backfield. His collegiate career ended with 2,002 yards rushing, 24 rushing touchdowns, 28 catches for 352 yards and another touchdown. In 1970, Harris led Penn State in scoring.
After being selected at No. 13 overall in the 1972 NFL Draft by the Steelers, Harris wasted no time in getting acclimated to the team. He gained 1,055 yards on 188 carries and recorded ten rushing touchdowns and four touchdown receptions. Earning NFL Rookie of the Year from United Press International and The Sporting News, Harris also garnered quite the following; “Franco’s Italian Army” included “Brigadier General” Frank Sinatra.
The “Immaculate Reception” has long been considered the No.1 NFL play of all-time, and will forever remain both controversial and memorable. Harris is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hall of Honor, has been memorialized (Pittsburgh International Airport) in statue, and will long be remembered as the best Steelers player to wear what has become an almost sacred number: “32”.