The best Steelers to wear each number: 33

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!

The number ’33’ is one that quite a few well-known Pittsburgh Steelers players have worn. There are two players that stood out the most as being considered “the best”, however.

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“Frenchy” Fuqua

John Fuqua, the self-acclaimed “French Count”, was one of the flashiest NFL players off of the field and on. He’d trade his platform shoes and vibrant outfits in on game day for a No. 33 jersey and cleats. A Detroit native, Fuqua played his collegiate football at Morgan State University before being drafted in the eleventh round of the 1969 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. Thankfully, for Pittsburgh, Fuqua was traded to them and became instantly famous for a top NFL play that made a teammate equally as famous: the “Immaculate Reception.” Fuqua reached for the Terry Bradshaw pass just as Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum made contact; it was never confirmed whether it was Tatum or Fuqua who was hit by the ball that magically ended up in the hands of Franco Harris.

Playing in 100 games, Fuqua helped the Steelers win their first two Super Bowl championships and posted his best season in 1970 – his first with the team – by rushing for 691 yards and seven touchdowns while sharing time in the offensive backfield with Harris. Fuqua set a Steelers single-game rushing record that year against the Philadelphia Eagles when he gained 218 yards.

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Merril Hoge

The boy from Pocatello (Idaho) that was a three-time all-conference selection running back at Idaho State University, setting an NCAA record 2,113 all-purpose yards, was selected in the 10th round of the 1987 NFL Draft. Hoge spent seven seasons with the Steelers, gaining 3,139 rushing yards and 2,133 receiving yards with the team while also scoring 34 touchdowns. When placed at fullback, Hoge scored an additional ten touchdowns in 1990.

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Other Notable 33’s

Byron “Bam” Morris (Texas Tech) won the 1993 Doak Walker Award as the top collegiate running back and was ranked second in the nation in rushing yards per game in 1993 before being drafted by the Steelers with the 91st overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft (third round). Morris, though troubled by off-field issues throughout his NFL career which led to his departure from Pittsburgh after just a single season, was the leading rusher for Pittsburgh in their Super Bowl XXX loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Fran Rogel was a post-World War II collegiate player who was unable to enroll at Penn State and spent the 1946 season at California State Teachers College (now known as California University of Pennsylvania). When he was able to transfer to Penn State, where he played fullback and linebacker, he led all Nittany Lions rushers and was on the 1948 Cotton Bowl Classic team. After being drafted by the Steelers at No. 100 overall in the 1950 NFL Draft, Rogel never missed a game in eight seasons with the team. Due to the conservative play-calling of head coach Walt Kiesling, the popular phrase, “Hey Diddle Diddle, Rogel up the middle,” became something of jeer for Steelers fans who were tired of Rogel being asked to just run the ball up the gut time and time again. Rogel made the Pro Bowl in 1956 and at the time of his retirement, following th 1957 season, he was the Steelers’ leading career rusher with 3,271 yards.

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