The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most iconic organizations in NFL history. They’re beloved in the city of Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania. But explaining certain components of the Steelers’ history — the name, logo, or helmet design — may prove confusing to even avid football fans.
In fact, many seasoned fans may not know some of this information. Let’s look at the Steelers’ history, which explains why the team only has a logo on one side of their helmets.
The history of the Steelers
Founded by Art Rooney, the Steelers are still owned by the Rooney family. Art originally created the team on July 8, 1933. From its founding until 1940 the team was known as the Pirates. For years they played in Three Rivers Stadium before moving to Heinz Field earlier this century.
While the team is now synonymous with winning, it wasn’t always this way. For the first several decades, they struggled to make an impact in the NFL, winning nothing at all. It wasn’t until 1972 that they earned their first accolade: the AFC Central Division crown. The Steelers followed this up by winning Super Bowl IX in 1974 — their first-ever championship.
The team didn’t slow down after that. The Steelers of the ’70s were one of the most dominant franchises in football history. They made the playoffs eight straight years with seven AFC Central championships, four AFC championships, and four Super Bowls (including a pair of back-to-back wins).
The Steelers also became the first AFC team to win a division title for 10 consecutive years since the NFL merged with the AFL in 1970. After a relatively quiet period in the ’80s and ’90s, Pittsburgh returned to prominence in the 2000s, winning Super Bowls in 2006 and 2009.
The significance of the Steelers’ logo
The Steelers are named for Pittsburgh’s steel industry. (Its nickname is “Steel City” after all.) The team’s logo ties into its name.
The Los Angeles Times explains that the design — a circle surrounding “three four-pointed geometric shapes called hypocycloids in yellow, red and blue” was originally the logo for the American Iron and Steel Institute. The yellow hypocycloid represents coal, red stands for iron ore, and blue represents steel scrap.
The Steelers appealed to the institute to use its logo. Before it was official, the team revised the word “Steel” to “Steelers.”
Why the Steelers’ logo is only on one side of the helmet
Here’s how the Steelers began and continue to feature their logo on only one side of their helmet. When the team introduced the new design, they had gold helmets instead of the current black ones. Because they didn’t know how the logo would look with the all-gold helmet, the franchise put it on only one side for a test run.
The Steelers told then-equipment manager Jack Hart to only adhere the logo to the right side of the helmets. That year (1962), the team finished 9-5 and qualified for the playoffs, the winningest season in franchise history to date.
To mark the franchise’s first playoff game, Pittsburgh wanted to do something special, so the team switched to all-black helmets, making the logo more prominent. The Steelers stayed with this design because the team achieved its first real success when the helmets looked this way.