The History of the Pittsburgh Steelers' Terrible Towel

How the Steelers' Bright Yellow Rally Rag Came to Be and Why You Need One

The Terrible Towel
••• SteelCityHobbies/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Every self-respecting Pittsburgh Steelers football fan has one: the bright yellow towel with the words "Terrible Towel" emblazoned in black. If you're in the city during a home game, don't miss the chance to see this championship-winning NFL team play ball—and don't forget to bring a Terrible Towel with you to Heinz Field on game day so you'll fit right in with the home fans.

Go Steelers

The brainchild of Myron Cope, a broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Terrible Towel was a gimmick he created to excite the fans during a 1975 playoff football game between the Steelers and the then Baltimore Colts.

The towel was chosen because it was small, portable, and something that just about every fan could own. It's nothing fancy—just a bright yellow towel. But when those towels start waving at Steelers games, the stands literally turn to a sea of yellow that presents a strong, very visible show of support for the team, rallying the already-loud Steelers fans to a fever pitch. 

How the Terrible Towel Came to Be

Originally, any towel would do, as long as it was yellow or black. According to a 1995 story in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, however, department store owners soon became vexed, because fans were buying up all of the yellow and black hand towels, and leaving the matching bath towels behind. Since towels are produced according to a fixed ratio of hand towels to bath towels, this left the manufacturers a bit miffed.

To remedy this towel dilemma, an early, special souvenir version of the Terrible Towel was created in 1975, bearing the slogan "Official Myron Cope Terrible Towel." The towel is now available in many official versions and can be purchased from the Steelers Pro Shop.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Terrible Towel benefits local Pennsylvania charities.