Origin and History of the Pittsburgh Steelers Logo

DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin K. Aller / Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers got their start as the Pittsburgh Pirates, named by the team's original owner, Arthur (Art) Joseph Rooney, Sr., on July 8, 1933. The name changed in 1940 in an attempt to generate local support and involvement. When fans submitted suggestions, several suggested the winning name Steelers to reflect the city's primary source of employment, earning season tickets for their efforts.

A New Look

The famous three-star Pittsburgh Steelers logo took a bit longer in development, however. Helmet logos first became popular in 1948 when the Los Angeles Rams became the first team to add an insignia to the team helmets. 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, the 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 at the time to the new logo craze 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 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 highlighted the new logo they felt brought them good luck.

Team equipment manager Jack Hart originally applied the new Steelmark logo only to the right side, uncertain how it would look on the solid gold helmets. Even when they later switched their helmet color to solid black, the team decided to permanently retain the logo on just one side in response to the interest generated by the logo's uniqueness. The Steelers remain the only team in the NFL to sport its logo on only one side of the helmet.

The Embodiment of a Proud Tradition

One last change occurred to the logo in 1963 when the Steelers successfully 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.

With the interest generated by having the logo on only one side of their helmets and the team’s newfound success (9-5 after many years of losing seasons), the Steelers decided to leave the helmet that way permanently. The Steelers logo hasn't changed since, befitting a football team that values consistency and tradition.

Steelers Nation

The Steelers sport their home uniforms at Heinz Field in the North Shore neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and their legions of spirited fans, who travel from all over to see the team play, proudly display the black and gold too.

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