On the Steelers: Museum being considered at Heinz Field
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The Steelers do not have a Hall of Fame, they do not have a Ring of Honor, they do not erect statues, they officially have retired just one jersey number, and they do not sign players to one-day contracts and let them retire as a "Steeler" if they had played elsewhere.
At least one of those things could change.
The Steelers are considering opening a Hall of Fame or, more aptly, a museum as part of a Heinz Field reconstruction that will add 4,000 to 5,000 seats and improvements in other areas in 2012 or 2013. At the moment, the expansion or reconstruction is estimated to cost around $30 million.
As for the museum, they have one of sorts -- the Great Hall -- on the ground floor inside Heinz Field, but under consideration would be a true museum that would include much more and open year-round and not just for 10 home games to ticket-holders. The possibilities are immense.
A friend, Vic Ketchman, long has said the Steelers needed such a facility. Ketchman covered the Steelers in the 1970s, '80s and '90s for the old Irwin Standard-Observer before he joined the Jacksonville Jaguars to produce their team paper and run their website. He now runs the web for the Green Bay Packers, who have hands down the best (and one of the few) thriving team museums in the NFL.
Few teams have such a rich and deep history as the Steelers and such a fan following. A museum could be a destination in itself with endless possibilities that would be immensely popular and likely draw fans from around the country. They could run package deals for those coming from out of town to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and the Pittsburgh Sports History Museum in the Strip District.
The Packers' museum is a money-maker, and there is no reason the Steelers could not equal or surpass that, especially since Pittsburgh is more accessible by land and air (and river) than Green Bay. The Steelers could sell retro jerseys and all kinds of memorabilia -- old photos, have autograph sessions with their great players, etc. The ideas are limitless.
A Steelers Hall of Fame would not induct anyone, per se, but be a living museum of sorts. Forget building statues. The Steelers built the only one they need, to franchise founder Art Rooney Sr. Better to have plaques on a wall inside the new museum, starting with all of those Pro Football Hall of Famers. They could rotate a player of the month and feature one player whose career did not land him in the Hall of Fame but is worth featuring on a rotating basis. They could start with Jack Butler and proceed directly to Andy Russell and LC Greenwood -- three players who still could get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame through the veterans committee.
They could even rotate their six Lombardi Trophies in there one at a time.
Former tackle John Jackson is one of only two Steelers to return to "retire" after playing with other teams and did so in their media room, where they usually hold news conferences. That's where Jackson announced his retirement. But the Steelers did not ceremoniously sign him to a one-day contract. Mike Tomczak wanted the team to sign him to a one-day contract and retire, but Kevin Colbert publicly stated at the time that they could not do it because it would affect their salary cap, and he said that with a straight face. Tomczak called his own press conference in a small room at Saint Vincent College to tell all he was retiring.
So do not expect them to do so with Alan Faneca. They did not do it with Rod Woodson. They will not do it with Faneca. That does not reflect a lack of respect for the player. It is simply not their style.
But what about retiring numbers or having a Ring of Honor? Should the Steelers do more there? They have unofficially retired many in addition to the No. 70 of Ernie Stautner officially has been set aside.
No one's worn Joe Greene's No. 75, but it's still not officially retired. Other numbers they no longer issue: Terry Bradshaw's 12, Franco Harris' 32, Mike Webster's 52, Jack Lambert's 58 and Dermontti Dawson's 63. They also no longer give out Jack Ham's No. 59, but Ham was not the last Steeler to wear that number. For some reason, they issued it to little-known linebacker Todd Seabaugh, who wore it one season, 1984. No one hass had it since.
Three other Hall of Fame numbers have been abused through the years, and it had something to do with the NFL numbering system, especially under previous rules that were stricter. Mel Blount's No. 47 has been worn by many, but not a single player worth mentioning, although one was named Scott Shields -- one of their great failures as a second-round draft pick.
Hall of Fame wide receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann have seen their numbers worn by many since their retirement. Five players have worn Stallworth's 82, currently Antwaan Randle El. The Steelers list 13 players who have worn Swann's 88 since his retirement, and it's a motley crew that includes Joey Clinkscales, Mark Didio, Terance Mathis, Matt Kranchick and, most recently, Jon Dekker.
What if the Steelers retired numbers? Where would they stop? Hall of Famers only?
They also have not followed the crowd in creating a Ring of Honor. Don't know if they were the first, but the first one I ever saw was the Kansas City Chiefs. Don't need that at Heinz Field, either.
First Published June 5, 2011 12:00 am