Rolling Snake Eyes with the Tide!
As a native of Alabama and a life-long fan of the Crimson Tide, these eyes have seen a great number of players wear the number 22 in Crimson and White. The Steelers just drafted the player who may be the best ever.
My first recollection of a player in that number was Johnny Musso. He was known as the 'Italian Stallion' and in the late 60's he was a standout on a team devoid of melanin. Despite wearing a plastic helmet, he bucked his way through opposing SEC defenses for 2,741 yards and looked good doing it in his tear-away jersey. In 1971 Musso was an All-American on a Tide team that went 11-1. He went on to become a 3rd round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1972 and backed up Walter Payton after three years with the CFL's British Columbia Lions.
The next player to make Alabama fans fawn over the number 22 was Tony Nathan. He was the first Black player to suit up for Woodlawn High School in Birmingham. Legendary Tide coach Bear Bryant put him in his wishbone offense and Nathan slashed through opponents during his four seasons for 1,997 yards and 29 touchdowns. He was also an outstanding kick-off returner, punt-returner and receiver. He ended his college career with 30 touchdowns and 3,362 all-purpose yards. Nathan was a third round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 1979 and in eight seasons had 3,543 yards and 16 touchdowns. Steelers fans got a chance to see what a former Tide player who wore number 22 could do in the 1985 AFC Championship Game. Wearing #22 for the Dolphins, "Touchdown Tony" had 64 yards rushing and 116 yards receiving as Miami beat Pittsburgh 45-28.
In 1985, Gene Jelks burst onto the scene as the speediest of runningbacks to wear the sporty 22 for the Tide. In his first season, he ran for over 700 yards highlighted by a 75-yard streaking touchdown in an Iron Bowl win over rival Auburn. Jelks played one more season at the position but was switched to defensive back due to the emergence of Bobby Humphrey. Ironically, Humphrey's son Marlon is currently one of the NFL's best defensive backs playing for Steeler AFC North rival Baltimore. Humphrey wears a multiplication of the number 2, showcasing #44 for the Ravens.
Mark Ingram put his stamp on the cool two twos in more ways than one. During the 2009-2010 season he led the Tide to its first National Championship since 1992 and capped off a great individual season with 1,658 yards rushing, 338 yards receiving, 17 touchdowns and the Heisman Trophy. He was the first Alabama player to win the coveted award. Ingram was selected number 28 by New Orleans in the 2011 draft and has racked up 7,324 yards and 62 touchdowns with the Saints and Ravens. He recently signed with the Houston Texans.
While we are talking about the number two, we would not do any Tide runningback justice without mentioning Derrick Henry. While he wore the single #2, he made opposing college teams see double with his combination of power and speed. On the way to becoming Alabama's second Heisman Trophy winner, Henry ran for 3,591 yards and 42 touchdowns. In the 2016 draft, the Tennessee Titans selected him with the 45th pick. It was a wise choice considering some other players selected higher proved to be busts. In the same draft, the Steeler chose Artie Burns with the top pick. Of course, there was no need for Henry at the time because LeVeon Bell was still in the fold. Yet, it was a bust. Others goofed, including the Cleveland Browns who chose wide receiver Corey Coleman with the 15th overall pick. Coleman is now on his 4th team having played for the Browns, Bills, Patriots and Giants. His career stats are a paltry 789 yards receiving and five touchdowns. Henry has already eclipsed his college numbers with 5,860 yards rushing, 692 yards receiving and a combined 58 touchdowns.
The heir to Henry was Najee Harris. In the tradition of recent Tide backs he splashed onto the scene and then waited his turn for the spotlight. As a freshman, he saw spot duty behind Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs. Najee raised eyebrows in the National Championship against Georgia when he sparked a second half rally with six carries for 64 yards. It took another season of Josh Jacobs parlaying his play into a first round selection with the LA Raiders before Harris and his version of the number 22 made its mark. As a junior, he had 1,224 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns plus another 304 yards receiving and seven additional scores. He topped that performance as a senior with 1,446 yards on the ground and 425 yards receiving. He also tallied 30 touchdowns including five in a single game against Ole Miss.
The most recent memorable player to wear number 22 for the Steelers was defensive back William Gay. The one with the possibility of making the biggest impact ever in 22 just rolled into town after Rolling with The Tide!
For more on the Steelers on this site go to our Steel Talkin' page with Ty Miller 2.0 and Joel Edwards.