The NFL season starts next week, and I realized a few days ago that I haven't fulfilled one of my offseason goals: buying a new Steelers jersey. My last jersey purchase was in 1996, when I bought a reversible home/away Greg Lloyd jersey. Lloyd retired a few years later. The Steelers had a couple down years in the early part of this decade, and I didn't want to risk buying a jersey with a name of a guy on the team who wouldn't be with the team the following season. But it's 2009 and the Steelers have won two championships in the past four years. I've worn a "Here We Go Steelers" long sleeved t-shirt for the past few playoff runs and while I'm usually a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" guy, in this case I think it's OK for me to trade up. I can always go back to the t-shirt for the playoffs.
The question is which player's jersey do I want? I grew up a Terry Bradshaw fan. While I can get a custom-made Bradshaw jersey, that would strain credulity. I'd like to be able to walk into a Steelers bar in the city and NOT have fans laugh at me. I'd like to stay away from the other offensive star players. I love Ben Roethlisberger, but #7 jerseys are plentiful and I don't want to be perceived as a bandwagon guy. The same goes for Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Willie Parker. On the defensive side, I'm tempted by Troy Polamalu's #43, but when I think of defense I think linebackers. So that leads me to James "Silverback" Harrison's #92. Harrison had the second most memorable play of last year's Super Bowl when he ran back a goal-line fumble 100 yards for a touchdown. Sure, he lost his mind in the second half and earned a costly penalty, but the Steelers won the game and the championship so all is forgiven. Plus, Harrison just signed a contract extension, so he's going to be with the team for a few more years. There's low risk and high reward in celebrating my team's recent championships with a #92 jersey.
Here's the real question: can I get away with paying $80 for a replica jersey? Or am I not considered a true fan unless I pay $275 for the authentic game-day jersey? I'm leaning toward the former. I bleed black and gold, but I'm not made of money.