Stevan Ridley only spent a few games with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, signed to their roster as a street free agent after rookie running back James Conner suffered a torn MCL late in the year. This time around, he is hoping to spend a full season on the roster. And he is excited about doing it in a new jersey.
We have talked about the importance of jersey numbers to players before, earlier this year. A number of players on the roster were able to get numbers they were more comfortable in this offseason because of roster moves, namely Joe Haden, Sean Davis, and Mike Hilton.
Ridley was another, and his number only because available because the Steelers released William Gay, who had the no. 22 jersey that he grew up admiring. “I was ecstatic”, he said, when he learned that his number would become available.
“No disrespect to William Gay, but the day he left I was waiting on the call to come from the Steelers and if they re-signed me I told them I wanted to re-sign and wanted to get my number if it was cool with them. It did work out and they came through for me”, he told the team’s website.
So why the number 22? Simply, Emmitt Smith, the all-time leading rusher in NFL history. Smith, the Dallas Cowboys star and three-time Super Bowl champion, was Ridley’s favorite football player growing up, as I’m sure was the case for many, even though his father was a Raiders fan.
“That is why I wear No. 22. I wore it in high school. I wanted it in college but it wasn’t available”, he said, adding that he grew up watching Smith. “He was my inspiration growing up”.
Ridley did have his number 22 while he was with the New England Patriots, but it was not available with Gay, the longtime veteran owning that number throughout his professional career, even during the one season that he spent with the Arizona Cardinals.
He got number 38 when the Steelers signed him, however. The LSU product wore the number 34 while in college. But now he is back in his most familiar jersey, the one that makes him most comfortable. Perhaps it will afford him some extra luck ahead of his upcoming roster battle.
And he will have a battle on his hands to earn a roster spot in Pittsburgh. The Steelers figure to have Le’Veon Bell and second-year James Conner at the top of the depth chart, but the rest of the group is fairly open.
If there is any favorite, it would probably be the rookie draft pick, Jaylen Samuels, but he has to earn the spot as much as anybody else. He also has much to prove in terms of being a full-time NFL running back. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jarvion Franklin will also be pushing for what might be only one available roster spot.