At some point this season, maybe as early as Week 1, there’s likely to be a #53 jersey snapping the ball to QB Ben Roethlisberger. But it won’t be Maurkice Pouncey. It’ll be third-round rookie Kendrick Green. Green requested and was given Pouncey’s old number. It’s the number Green wore in high school, college, and now the NFL. Green says he never asked for Pouncey’s blessing. Even if he had, it sounds like Pouncey would’ve granted it.
ESPN’s Brooke Pryor wrote a nice feature piece on Green and at the end of the article, included this nugget from Pouncey, who said he had no problem with his jersey number being given out.
“It’s just a number – the memories are never given away,” Pouncey told Pryor. “My jersey number on every level after I left was given back out. It’s all a part of football.”
At Florida, Pouncey wore #56 in his accomplished Gators career. His number wasn’t handed out for 2010, the year after he left, but was back on the roster in 2011, issued to offensive linemen and Notre Dame transfer Dan Wenger. It was again given to linebacker Andre Palmer for 2013.
As we recently wrote about, it’s been common in Steelers’ history for the team to immediately hand out jersey numbers from great players. In 1983, LB Todd Seabaugh was given Jack Ham’s #59. Ditto with Tony Hills getting Alan Faneca’s #66 the year after Faneca left in free agency.
Of course, let’s hope Green has a much more successful career than Seabaugh or Hills. But the point is the same. Not every Steelers’ number can be retired, officially or unofficially, especially with so many in that range no longer issued. With 52, 58, 59, 63 unofficial, 70 and 75 officially retired, it limits the number pool for offensive linemen to choose from.
Ultimately, if Green can follow a similar career arc as Pouncey, he’ll have well-represented Pouncey’s old number. That mission will begin with Green trying to win the starting job as a rookie just as Pouncey did in 2010.
Green’s primary competition this summer will be veteran B.J. Finney, brought back to Pittsburgh after a failed season in Seattle and Cincinnati. Finney’s 59 appearances with the Steelers gives him the experience advantage, but Green is the much better athlete and run blocker. He’s still learning the nuances of center after spending the bulk of his career at guard, but Green is probably the slight favorite right now to win the starting job.