Cleveland, of all places.
No, Steelers didn't steal their logo -- but even today, it's not theirs
By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer
February 2, 2006
DETROIT (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' logo is one of the best-known in pro sports, the three starlike symbols that decorate one side -- and only one side -- of their black-as-coal helmets.
Many NFL fans think they represent Pittsburgh's three rivers, or the diamond shape of the city's downtown.
Here's the surprise: the Steelers' symbol isn't theirs,and never was. Instead, it belongs to the country's steel industry and originally had nothing to do with football, Pittsburgh or the Steelers.
An even bigger surprise: the idea for the Steelers to wear it came from, of all cities, Cleveland.
Before 1962, the Steelers' most-used logo was a punter booming a kick while balanced on a steel beam -- a fitting symbol given how often they punted in those days. Before that season, executives of Cleveland-based Republic Steel suggested the Steelers wear a new emblem called the Steelmark, originally designed for U.S. Steel.
The Steelmark contained the word "steel" and the trio of four-pointed stars, known as hypocycloids, in yellow, orange and blue.
Initially, the colors were to represent the attributes of steel but, that proved confusing and were quickly changed to stand for the three materials used in steelmaking (yellow for coal, orange for iron ore, blue for scrap steel).
OK, so how does this relate to Mean Joe Greene, Rod Woodson and Ben Roethlisberger?
Dan Rooney, the son of Steelers founder Art Rooney, liked Republic Steel's suggestion and agreed to adopt the Steelmark after the American Iron and Steel Institute, which officially owned the symbol, gave its approval.
Helmet logos were nothing new in the NFL; the 1948 Rams were the first team to display them.
"I thought it was a good idea, but I wasn't sure how it would be received," said Dan Rooney, now the team's chairman. "That's why it's only on one side of the helmet. Then we took it from there, and we had everybody asking questions and I said, `Let's keep it that way. It's really a novelty."'
Hence why the logo, to this day, is on only one side of the helmet (it's also been rumored the team's longtime equipment manager, Jack Hart, wasn't happy with slapping the logo on so many helmets and refused to do both sides).
Four Steelers players -- running backs John Henry Johnson and Dick Hoak, quarterback Bobby Layne and receiver Buddy Dial -- proudly held up the logo for publicity photos when it was introduced before that 1962 training camp.
At the time, the Steelers were No. 2 in town to the Pirates in popularity and were looking for anything to sell more tickets or drum up interest. Not long before, they were the first NFL team to have cheerleaders (who, unlike the steel symbol, proved to be a short-lived idea.)
"We held up this big old Steeler emblem, and we got our picture taken with it," said Hoak, the team's running backs coach and a Steelers player or coach all but one of the last 45 years. "But I don't remember how we reacted to it -- I mean, an emblem's an emblem."
Not to a Steelers fan looking forward to Sunday's Super Bowl against Seattle, it isn't.
The Steelers had a surprisingly good record (9-5) in 1962, so they chose to keep the logo, with two changes. One, the helmets were switched from gold to black. Second, the Steelers were given permission to change the word "Steel" in the logo to "Steelers."
The logo hasn't changed since, fittingly enough for a franchise that has switched head coaches only once since 1969 and values consistency and tradition. "I knew it was a good one, a good symbol and said what we were. It said steel," Dan Rooney said. "It's still good."