I mean nothing personal against my dear friend Anson, but he is wrong. Aaron Donald was unbelievable this season. Donald had one of the finest seasons you will see from any defensive linemen in college football. That fact is undeniable and I'm sure Anson will present the stat sheet to make his case and highlight Donald's dominance. I cannot deny the stats, but there are some facts that I think need to be considered before we hang #97 to rafters of Heinz Field.
First of all, Pitt was the definition of mediocre this season. They were mediocre last season. And the one before that. For the majority of Donald's career, Pitt was 'meh'. Some may argue, right or wrong, that the team's performance should have no bearing on individual honors. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Ask Jason White and Larry Fitzgerald. If Pitt had been on the national radar, Donald's accomplishments would have meant a lot more than merely helping the Panthers get bowl eligible. It's sad, but true.
Secondly, I have to take into account the players who have already had their numbers retired by the university. Names like Marino, Dorsett, Ditka, Fralic, Green, and Fitzgerald. In some cases, those names transcend the sport. I honestly don't know if the name 'Donald' belongs on that list. Marino and Dorsett sound like Ruth and Gehrig, but Donald is in the Jorge Posada and Willie Randolph category (pardon the baseball analogy). They belong in the 'Hall of Very Good'. Retired numbers should be reserved for legendary players and the cream of the crop. Is Aaron Donald a legend? I'm not so sure.
Finally, there are other Pitt players who may be more deserving of this honor. Listen to the following list of names and you can argue that each should have their number retired: Curtis Martin, Ruben Brown, Craig Heyward, Jimbo Covert, Antonio Bryant, Darelle Revis, and Lesean McCoy. It could be argued that if Donald's number is retired, so too should the numbers of the aforementioned Panthers. If every great player on every mediocre Pitt team had their jersey retired, I don't think there would be many numbers left for the current group of players.
Look, Donald has a remarkable career at Pitt. Aaron made offensive linemen look downright silly at times. He will be remembered as a very good player on some really average teams. However, I'm not sure he can be considered a "Pitt great". For a program with the history and tradition of Pitt football, the honor should be bestowed upon the greatest, not the very good.