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It's more than just a number

For some, it's merely a number. One or two digits on the front, back and shoulders of a jersey.

For others, it's an identity. Something used by coaches, teammates and even media to refer to a player. Something they take pride in, something with meaning, and something special to see fans wearing in the stands.

For the Steelers rookies, their numbers signify a new beginning.

"As much as being in Pittsburgh after the draft and seeing all of the coaches, seeing Steelers Nation, and meeting so many people made it feel real, once you get that number, it puts your stamp on the organization and helps you grasp that things are going to be moving quickly," said No. 1 draft pick T.J. Watt. "It means you are that much closer to putting on an actual jersey and that is exciting.

"I think there is pride in the name on the back of your jersey because it represents my family and where I came from and the people who have been with me since day one. The name on the front of the jersey, they have given me the opportunity to play football at the highest level for the best fans in the world. Finally there is the number. And it is special. Everything about that jersey, when I am able to put it on it's going to be special. That is why I am working hard now to earn that jersey and make people proud."

The Steelers assigned numbers for their draft class, numbers they will wear for the first time during rookie minicamp this weekend. And the players are looking forward to it.

Watt will wear No. 90, a number that is new for him, but one he is looking forward to making his own.

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"There were a few options," said Watt. "At the end I think No. 90 was the best for me. As a bigger outside linebacker I think I can fill out No. 90."

James Conner is going back to his roots at McDowell High School in Erie, Pa. and will wear No. 30 with the Steelers. Conner, one of the team's third-round draft picks, wore the number in high school and is kicking it back to those days.

"That was my high school number," said Conner. "I don't remember why I picked it, but for some reason in high school I picked that number. It jumped out at me.

"You play for your team, for your teammates, but you definitely take pride in your jersey number."

Conner wore No. 24 at the University of Pittsburgh because he is a fan of Marshawn Lynch, who wears that number, but he wanted to make a change now that he is in the NFL.

"I like the way Marshawn runs, but now that I am playing professional football, I want to start a name for myself," said Conner. "I can go back to No. 30 where football started to get serious for me, where I started to think about playing Division I football. It's kind of where it all started. High school is where I started realizing I could potentially make it all the way. To go back and wear that number, where it all started, is something special to me."

Fans have already started ordering Watt's and Conner's jerseys, as well as other rookie jerseys, without the numbers being assigned. And now that they are assigned, even more jersey orders will be rolling in.

"It's incredible. That's Steelers Nation," said Watt. "I feel the love completely. I am walking around Wisconsin and I see people in Steelers jerseys, and hats all around town. It's crazy how much I am noticing it. It's awesome. It's becoming a reality for me. Early on I didn't know how to put it into words how excited I am to get out there. I am ready to get out there and get going."

2017 Steelers Draft Class Numbers
T.J. Watt – No. 90
JuJu Smith-Schuster – No. 19 *
Cameron Sutton – No. 20 *
James Conner – No. 30
Joshua Dobbs – No. 5 *
Brian Allen – No. 29 *
Colin Holba – No. 49 *
Keion Adams – No. 99 *

  • subject to change

Click here for the complete Steelers roster.

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