Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am a die-hard Steelers fan. So much so I have a steelers logo tattoo on my right arm. Was I born in Pittsburgh? No I was not. I was actually born in Florida. But I started watching the Steelers in 1977, I was 5 and I was hooked. Nothing could beat the Iron Curtain and I knew that was my team. All 3 of my kids are Steelers fans, my step daughter is slowly becoming one, and my wife likes them as well, the only rogue is my step-son but he’s another story. Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a league of their own and the most dedicated fans you will ever meet. So with that said I thought I would give everyone some Steelers trivia, even for the die-hard fan some of these should make you go hmmmm.
Do you remember the Steagles? The Pittsburgh Steelers have actually had three names during their history. The team began as the Pittsburgh Pirates, before owner Art Rooney changed their name to the Steelers in 1940. In 1943, they became the “Steagles” when they were merged with the Philadelphia Eagles. 1944 saw them similiarly merged with the Cardinals, and they became the….wait for it….. “Card-Pitt” team. Then of course back to the beloved Steelers.
Heinz Field, home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers, is a monument to Western Pennsylvania football tradition and to the fans. The Steelers were not always the thriving team that they are today, however, in their first 7 seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers won only 22 games. Professional football just wasn’t a priority in Pittsburgh, where baseball and college football were much more popular, so Art Rooney often took the Steelers away from their home at Forbes Field, and on the road to cities such as Johnstown, PA; Youngstown, OH; and New Orleans, LA. Through it all, Rooney never faltered in his resolve to make pro football successful in Pittsburgh.
Two significant changes took place in 1970, when the Pittsburgh Steelers, lead by coach Chuck Noll, moved from the NFL to the AFC Central with the merger of the American Football League and the National Football League, and also moved into their new home at Three Rivers Statium, named after the three rivers (Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers) that converge at downtown Pittsburgh. Previously, the Steelers had played home games at both Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium (home of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers) from 1958-63 and, exclusively at Pitt Stadium from 1964-69.
Many think Three Rivers Stadium brought good luck, as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-ever division title came in 1972 with an 11-3 record. In the first playoff game at Three Rivers, the Steelers defeated the Oakland Raiders 13-7 and advanced to the AFC Championship Game (which they later lost) with Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception,” perhaps the most famous play in NFL history, during the final minute of the game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, led by Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mel Blount, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Jack Ham, again reached the playoffs in 1973, winning the Super Bowl the next two seasons. After missing another chance at the Super Bowl with playoff losses in 1976 and 1977, the Steelers won the Super Bowl again in 1978 and 1979, becoming the first team in NFL history to win four Super Bowls and the only team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice. With six consecutive AFC Central championships, eight straight years of playoff appearances, and four Super Bowl championships, the Steelers were affectionately dubbed as the “Team of the Decade” for the 1970s.
The newest chapter of Steelers history began in June of 1998 with the official ground-breaking for Heinz Field, the new 64,450-seat home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers. The gates to Heinz Field were officially opened in August of 2001.
Did you know Pittsburgh used to have cheerleaders? It’s true. Though they don’t have them now, one of the NFL’s first cheerleading teams, the Steelerettes, cheered for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1961-1970 (It’s a shame they aren’t still around now).
The Steelers steelmark logo was originally only applied to one side of the helmet (the right side) because the Steelers were uncertain how it would look on their solid gold helmets. Even when they later switched their helmet color to solid black, they decided to permanently retain the logo on just the one side due to the team’s new success and the interest generated by the logo’s uniqueness.
The famous three-star Pittsburgh Steelers logo took awhile to come about, however. Helmet logos first became popular in 1948 when the Los Angeles Rams became the first team to use an insignia or logo on its helmet. Rams player, Fred Gehrke, was also an artist and spent all of his free time that season hand-painting the distinctive Ram horns on 70 leather helmets. The next year, Riddell, manufacturer of the famous plastic football helmet still in use today, agreed to bake the design into the helmet, prompting other teams to gradually add logos of their own. The Steelers’ only concession to the new logo craze, however, was to add the players’ numbers and a black stripe to their distinctive gold helmets.
In 1962, Republic Steel of Cleveland approached the Steelers and suggested that they consider the Steelmark, the insignia used by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), as a helmet logo to honor Pittsburgh’s steel heritage. The Steelmark logo, a circle enclosing three hypocycloids (diamonds with inward-curving edges) and the word STEEL, was created by U.S. Steel Corp. (now known as USX Corp.) to educate consumers about the importance of steel in their daily lives.
The colors were chosen to promote the attributes for steel: yellow lightens your work; orange brightens your leisure; and blue widens your world. The logo’s meaning was later amended to represent the three materials used to produce steel: yellow for coal; orange for iron ore; and blue for steel scrap.
The Steelers liked the idea presented by Republic Steel, despite the fact that the company was located in the city of their bitterest rival, the Cleveland Browns, and proudly sported the new logo on their helmets for the 1962 season. After qualifying that year for their first-ever postseason game, they changed the color of their helmets from gold to solid black, which also served to highlight the new logo they felt had brought them good luck. The Steelers are now the only team in the NFL to sport its logo on only one side of the helmet.
One last change occurred to the logo in 1963 when the Steelers petitioned the AISI to allow them to change the word ‘Steel’ inside the Steelmark to ‘Steelers.’ The Steelers later added the gold stripe and player numbers and changed the face masks from grey to black, but otherwise the helmet has remained virtually unchanged since 1963.
The interest generated by having the logo on only one side of their helmets along with the team’s new success, the Steelers decided to leave the helmet that way permanently. The Steelers logo hasn’t changed since.
The Duquesne Incline, which has been scaling the side of Mount Washington since May 7, 1877, is just one example of Pittsburgh pride in the Steelers. On game day, a sign is added to each of the two cars – the left one reads ‘DEEE’ and the right one reads ‘FENSE.’ When the cars pass each other at the halfway point, they read ‘DEEE FENSE.’ The lighted signs can actually be seen from Heinz Field!
No player numbers have ever been retired by the Pittsburgh Steelers (making them one of only a handful of NFL teams to follow this practice), but certain numbers are mysteriously not handed out to new players each season: #12 (Terry Bradshaw), #31 (Donnie Shell), #32 (Franco Harris), #47 (Mel Blount), #52 (Mike Webster), #58 (Jack Lambert), #59 (Jack Ham), #70 (Ernie Stautner) and #75 (Joe Greene).
Finally, the much loved official Myron Cope Terrible Towel was created to appease department store owners upset because their yellow and black handtowels were being sold at a rate disproportionate to the matching bath towels. The Terrible Towel was a gimmick created to excite the fans during a 1975 playoff football game between the Steelers and the then Baltimore Colts. It’s nothing fancy, just a bright yellow towel with the words “Terrible Towel” emblazoned in black — but every self-respecting Steelers football fan has one. At least Steelers fans aren’t stuck waving a large foam we’re #1 index finger or a cheese hat like everyone else!
So What’s So Terrible About a Towel? When those yellow towels start waving at Steelers games, the stands literally turn to a sea of yellow. They offer a strong, very visible show of support for the team, and really rally the already loud Steelers fans to a fever pitch. The terrible towel is feared by opposing teams everywhere, of course!
And a final note, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of The Terrible Towel(TM) benefits Allegheny Valley School in Pittsburgh, one of the largest providers of care for people with mental retardation in the state of Pennsylvania.