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The Pittsburgh Steelers were founded in 1933. Over the course of the team's history, the team has had several logos while wearing virtually the same uniforms over the years, with subtle changes made to give the uniforms an updated look. The team colors, uniforms, and logo are often ranked as being among the best in the NFL.[1]

Contents

Colors

The Steelers have used black and gold as their colors since the club's inception, the lone exception being the 1943 season when they merged with the Philadelphia Eagles and formed the "Steagles"; the team's colors at that time were green and white as a result of wearing Eagles uniforms. Originally, the team wore solid gold-colored helmets and black jerseys. Unique to Pittsburgh, the Steelers' black and gold colors are now shared by all major professional teams in the city, including the Pittsburgh Pirates in baseball and the Pittsburgh Penguins in hockey. These also are the colors of the city's official flag.

The Steelers have had several logos in the early part of their history, among them including the crest of Pittsburgh, a football with Pittsburgh's then-smoggy skyline, as well as a construction worker hanging onto a chain holding a pennant. Another logo showed the worker punting a football on a steel beam. It is rumored that controversial mascot Steely McBeam was based on the latter logo.[2]

Since the 1960s, the team has used a stencil typeface for their script logo. Since then, many team-related typefaces have used stencil font.

The team's current primary logo was introduced in 1962 and is based on the "Steelmark," originally designed by Pittsburgh's U.S. Steel and now owned by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). In fact, it was Cleveland-based Republic Steel that suggested the Steelers adopt the industry logo. It consists of the word "Steelers" surrounded by three astroids (hypocycloids of four cusps). The original meanings behind the astroids were, "Steel lightens your work, brightens your leisure, and widens your world." Later, the colors came to represent the ingredients used in the steel-making process: yellow for coal, orange for iron ore, and blue for scrap steel.[3] While the formal Steelmark logo contains only the word "Steel," the team was given permission to add "ers" in 1963 after a petition against AISI.

While the logo still resembles the original Steelmark logo, the team has made subtle changes over the years in order to own a trademark on the logo, most notably making the three astroids thicker in shape and changing the orange astroid to red. The Steelmark logo itself has actually been heavily redesigned since then, using two variants, one of which uses a more modern design and uses three shades of blue for the astroids[4] while another one used concurrently has a strong resemblance to the recycling symbol. One alternate variation the team used in the 1980s—though rarely used today—combined the logo with the team's signature stencil-script typeface, replacing the regular "Steelers" typeface used with the team's longtime script logo.

Helmets

The Steelers are the only NFL team that puts its logo on only one side of the helmet (the right side). Longtime field and equipment manager Jack Hart was instructed to do this by Art Rooney as a test to see how the logo appeared on the gold helmets; however, its popularity led the team to leave it that way permanently.[5] A year after introducing the logo, they switched to black helmets to make it stand out more. In 1977, the Steelers switched facemask colors from gray to black.

Another feature of the helmets is that a player's number appears on both the front and back (the Steelers are one of only two teams in the NFL to do this, the other being the New York Giants). The numbers traditionally do not appear on the helmet fronts during the exhibition season, and also do not appear on the front of the throwback helmets.

Uniforms

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Early years

The Steelers have made only a few changes to their jerseys over the years. Originally, the team had vertically-striped jerseys that resembled prison uniforms at the time, with some variations having the city of Pittsburgh crest on the front, a la NHL uniforms. The team would later wear these uniforms as throwbacks in 1994.

The team adopted more standard NFL uniforms in 1936 and added Northwestern striping to the sleeves, and with the team finishing 0.500 for the first time in team history that season (at 6–6), the stripes have largely remained on the uniforms since. The striping pattern is named for Northwestern University, the college that is believed to have originated the pattern.[6]

One exception that the stripes were omitted prior to the 1960s was from the aforementioned "Steagles" season because the team wore the Eagles uniforms as a cost-saving measure. The Eagles' jerseys at the time were green with white shoulders and no stripes. The Rooneys have acknowledged that because the combined team wore the Eagles uniforms that year, it is the only time in team history that the colors were something other than black & gold.

Two white jerseys

Due to uniform experimentation in the 1960s, on two separare occasions the team's stripes were omitted. The first time came in 1962, when the Steelers began to wear two types of white jerseys, one of which featured a gold diamond on the sleeves in place of the stripes, with the "TV numbers" situated on the diamonds. These jerseys were primarily worn in home games when the team didn't wear their black jerseys, since the NFL at the time was encouraging teams to wear white jerseys so fans could see the team colors of their opponents.

The other jersey featured gold sleeves and a black version of the stripes, and were worn in road games when the home team elected to wear their colored jerseys. The team continued this way through the 1965 season.

Caped Crusaders

The Steelers' "Batman"-style uniforms the team experimented with in 1966-1967.

Perhaps the most infamous uniforms the team has ever worn came in 1966, when the team experimented with the "Batman"-themed uniforms, named as such because they were similar to the Batman outfits Adam West wore on the popular TV series. The jersey had no stripes on either the black or white jerseys and had a gold triangle-like diamond covering the shoulders.

Although they have been commonly called the "Batman" uniforms, Dan Rooney later made public his reasoning behind the uniforms. With his father still running the team and the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers being the class of the NFL, the younger Rooney (who still had a much smaller role with the team at the time) didn't want to follow the lead of other NFL teams trying to copy the Packers and wanted the Steelers to have a more unique look.[7] Coinciding with this was the development of the Golden Triangle in the city of Pittsburgh in the 1960s, so Rooney decided to give the uniforms a connection to the growing downtown district with the gold triangle-like diamond.

Although both Rooney and NFL Films's Steve Sabol liked the look (Sabol mentioned that you could easily tell when the Steelers played),[8] the players didn't, adding that they looked like clowns or Batman, which is likely where the "Batman" rumors began. Due to primitive washing techniques at the time (as well as NFL teams frequently reusing the uniforms, unlike today where current athletic supplier Reebok gives teams new equipment every game), the Steelers had trouble washing the uniforms because the gold triangle faded easily. Rooney was even asked on a radio show in Dallas when the team was playing the Cowboys on October 30, 1966 if the team was wearing the uniforms for Halloween.[7]

The uniforms were retired after two seasons. The team has mentioned publicly as recent as 2007 that they will never wear them in a game again.[8] However, in 2008, the team began to sell customized versions of the jerseys on their official web site.[9]

Modern classics

After just two years with the "Batman" uniforms, the current uniform designs were introduced in 1968. The design was a modernized version of the pre-1966 black design and consists of gold pants and either black jerseys or white jerseys, except for the 1970 and 1971 seasons when the Steelers wore white pants with their white jerseys. After a two-year hiatus, the Northwestern-style stripes returned for good, with the black jerseys getting white stripes in the two gaps of the gold stripes while the white jerseys got black outlines on the gold stripes. Both variations have been heavily used in team apparel.

The helmet is solid black with a gold central stripe and small white player numbers on the forehead. Last names were added to the jerseys in 1970, as part of a new NFL mandate resulting from the AFL-NFL merger (the AFL teams had last names on the back of their jerseys). In 1997, the team switched to rounded numbers on the jersey to match the number font (Futura Condensed) on the helmets, and a Steelers logo was added to the left side of the jersey.

Black at home

The Steelers are one of a dwindling number of NFL franchises that strictly wears its team color jerseys at home, always opting for black. They are the only ones in the AFC North to practice this. The Cleveland Browns have traditionally had on again/off again periods of wearing white at home, while the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, like some other NFL teams, wear white in their home opener before wearing their darker jerseys in their remaining home games. The Steelers last wore white at home on a regular basis in 1969, Chuck Noll's first season as coach and the last year the team played in Pitt Stadium.

Because of the team's unofficial policy of always wearing their black jerseys in home games, the team gained some notoriety when, as the designated "home" team for Super Bowl XL, the team elected to wear their white jerseys, becoming just the third NFL team to elect to wear white as the "home" team in the Super Bowl. But while the other two teams that have elected to wear white as the "home" team in the Super Bowl (Dallas and Washington) traditionally wear white at home, a variety of reasons were rumored as to why the Steelers elected to wear white in Super Bowl XL. Reasons included the fact that the team wore white in all three playoff victories that year (all on the road) to former head coach Bill Cowher's comments that since it wasn't at Heinz Field, it was a road game (a statement contradicted by the fact that ten years earlier in Super Bowl XXX, Cowher's squad was the "home team" and chose to wear their black jerseys away from Three Rivers Stadium, where they had played both playoff games). However, it should be noted though that the game took place in Detroit, which is only a five hour drive from Pittsburgh and with the league preferring to have the Super Bowl in subtropical or Mediterranean climates or in domed/retractable roof stadiums due to the winter weather, is likely the closest the Steelers would have to a home game in a Super Bowl in the foreseeable future. (Not surprisingly, there were also an overwhelming number of Steelers fans at the game compared to the number of supporters of their opponent, the Seattle Seahawks. One ESPN.com columnist suggested that Steelers fans outnumbered Seahawks fans by a ratio of 25 to 1.[10])

Throwback uniforms

Hines Ward wearing the Steelers 75th anniversary uniform in 2007

At a press conference on April 27, 2007, it was announced that the Steelers would wear a throwback uniform for two home games during the 2007 season, as part of the celebration of the Steelers' 75th Season. They were worn for the Steelers' home opener against the Buffalo Bills on September 16 and again during the Monday Night Football game on November 5 against the Baltimore Ravens. Both games resulted in victories. The jersey is black with the numbers, names and stripes all in gold and it also contains a 75th Season logo on the right side of the upper chest part of the jersey. The jersey is considered to be from the 1960 season. The pants are white with a single gold stripe running down the length of the outside of each leg, surrounded by thinner black stripes on either side of the gold stripe. The helmets are gold with the Steelers logo on the right side and a single black stripe running down the center from front to back. The helmet was worn during the 1962 season, which was the first year that the present Steelers logo began to appear on their helmets. The only two differences are that the logo on the original helmet read 'Steel', whereas Steelers appears on the helmet that the team wore for the two games in 2007 and that the face mask on this version of the helmet is black, whereas the original face mask color on the gold helmet was gray. The throwbacks, minus the "75th season" patch, are now officially the team's alternate uniform as of the 2008 season,[11] and are usually worn for games that honor the team's alumni.[12]

References


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