History of the Steelers' Uniform
Art Rooney Sr. founded Pittsburgh's NFL team in 1933, and he promptly named it the Pirates, after his favorite baseball team. The team remained the Pirates until 1940, when Rooney re-named it the Steelers to represent the city's heritage.
But a few years before that change, the distinctive uniforms were designed. In the team's inaugural NFL season, the players wore jerseys that featured the crest of the City of Pittsburgh on the front, and replicas were worn in 1994 as part of the NFL's 75th Anniversary celebration.
The uniforms changed in each of the next two seasons, and in 1936 the team went to a jersey that featured Northwestern Striping on each sleeve, the same design that graces the uniforms today. Because Art Rooney's team finished 6-6 in 1936, which was the first .500 record in its short history, the Northwestern Striping was made a permanent part of the uniform.
The Los Angeles Rams were the first team to paint logos on their helmets, and they did so because one of their players doubled as an artist and performed the service for free. As the NFL entered the 1950's, other teams gradually copied this practice, but the Steelers helmets of the era were gold, with players' numbers on each side.
Later in the decade, the numbers were removed from the helmets, and in 1962 Republic Steel, located in Cleveland, came to the Steelers and suggested the team use the Steelmark as a helmet logo.
The Steelmark is the symbol created by the American steel industry, and it is a circle enclosing three hypocycloids and the word "Steel." The hypocycloids are three colors, and in the 1970's the meaning was extended to include the three materials used to make steel: yellow for coal, orange for ore, and blue for steel scrap.
The Steelers liked the idea presented by Republic Steel even though that company was based in the city of their bitterest rival. The next step was to petition the American Iron and Steel Institute for permission to change the word "Steel" inside the Steelmark to "Steelers." Now, the logo was complete.
But when the helmet logos arrived, the Steelers weren't convinced they looked all that good when added to a solid gold helmet. As a result, equipment manager Jack Hart was instructed to put the logo only on one side of the helmet, the right side.
The 1962 Steelers finished 9-5 and became the winningest team in franchise history. By finishing second in the Eastern Conference, the Steelers qualified for the Playoff Bowl, the first-ever postseason game for Rooney's team. For that appearance, the Steelers wanted to do something special, so they changed the color of their helmets from gold to solid black, and that also served to highlight the new logo.
Even in 1962, having a logo on only one side of the helmet was a curiosity, and because of the interest generated, coupled with the unprecedented success the team had, the Steelers decided to leave it that way permanently.
And so the uniforms and helmets the Steelers will wear in 1998 have roots dating back to two of their historic seasons -- 1936, which was the first non-losing season; and 1962, which would be the winningest team in the franchise's first 39 years.