The best Steelers to wear each number: 34
During the off-season, Steel City Underground dives into Pittsburgh Steelers fan-favorite topics, like players throughout franchise history and the number they wore on their jersey. Some numbers have been used more than others, but we present our picks for “the best” who’ve done so in this fun series.
Twenty three different Pittsburgh Steelers players have donned the number “34” on their jersey. Some have been well-known fan favorites while others spent little time in that jersey while with the franchise. To determine “the best”, we looked at the individuals, their time with the team, any records they set, Pro Bowl appearances, honors, Super Bowl appearances versus championships, and Hall of Fame votes and inductions.
Our pick: Andy Russell
Having moved from New York to St. Louis, Charles Andrew “Andy” Russell opted to try football at Ladue Horton Watkins High School (Ladue, MO) for the first time. He became a starter his sophomore year as an end and switched to playing both directions (fullback and linebacker) his senior year, earning All-State honors. Although other colleges heavily attempted recruiting him, Russell chose Missouri under coach Dan Devine.
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Russell in the 16th round (No. 220 overall) of the 1963 NFL Draft. Russell missed time with the Steelers due to fulfilling Army ROTC commitments (from Missouri) and stationing in Germany. When Russell returned to Pittsburgh in 1966, he donned the black and gold for the next 11 seasons.
An early member of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense, Russell, a linebacker, made seven Pro Bowl appearances (1969, 1971-76) and became a two-time Super Bowl champion (Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X). He was the Steelers’ MVP in 1971.
Russell famously set an NFL playoff record when he returned a touchdown for 93 yards at Three Rivers Stadium (Pittsburgh) against the Baltimore Colts. There has been argument that Russell’s play was the longest play in time of duration from scrimmage in NFL history.
Russell wasn’t always surrounded with the best of the best; the Steelers struggled to compete in his early pro career. He became a highly-respected teammate, however, because he played his best regardless of what the Steelers’ win-loss record was at the end of each of his seasons.
“Andy played great football on a worse than mediocre team. Why? Because Andy was always the consummate professional,” Jack Ham said of his former teammate. “That attitude was clear to me from my first day of training camp to Andy’s last game with the Steelers.”
Russell finished his career in Pittsburgh with 18 interceptions for 238 yards and a touchdown, ten fumble recoveries, and 38.0 sacks in 168 games.
Other Steelers “34”s