The organisation is one of the most popular teams in the US and beloved across the state of Pennsylvania – but why is the Steelers logo only on one side of the team’s helmets?
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the seventh-oldest franchise in the NFL and the oldest franchise in the AFC. They have a storied history dating to the 1930s and are tied with the Broncos and Dallas Cowboys for the second-most Super Bowl appearances in NFL history.
However, one of the quirks of the team is the Steelers’ logo is only on one side of players’ helmets. Here’s a brief history of the logo and how that came to be.
A brief history of the Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers were founded in 1933 by Art Rooney, although back then they were called the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, prior to the 1940 season the franchise changed its name to the Steelers in honour of Pittsburgh’s steel industry – its nickname is Steel City. Since that season, they have been known as the Steelers.
For years they played in Three Rivers Stadium but had little success throughout the 1930s and early 1940s. The Steelers made the playoffs for the first time in 1947, and only earned their first AFC Central Division title in 1972. Two years before that they had moved to Heinz Field and in 1974 won their first championship in Super Bowl IX.
The 1970s brought unparalleled success for the franchise, winning seven AFC Central championships, four AFC championships, and four Super Bowls. The team struggled in the decades after but returned to prominence in the 2000s, winning Super Bowls XL and XLIII. To this day, the team is still owned by the Rooney family, with much of the control given to Art Rooney II, the grandson of Art Rooney.
Relevance of the Steelers logo
The Steelers logo – known as the Steelmark – pays homage to the team’s city and its rich history of steel-making. However, it originally belonged to the American Iron & Steel Institute (AISI), and in 1962 the Steelers petitioned to use it.
The Los Angeles Times describes the design as a circle surrounded by “three four-pointed geometric shapes called hypocycloids in yellow, red and blue”. The yellow hypocycloid represents coal, red stands for iron ore, and blue represents steel scrap.
In the Steelers’ petition to the AISI in 1962, they also asked if they could change the word “Steel” in the circle to “Steelers”. This was when the team started using the logo, although the ‘Steelers’ part wasn’t added until 1963.
Why is the Steelers logo only on one side of their helmets?
Many fans question why the Steelers logo is only on one side of their helmets, which is unusual in the NFL. In 1962, the Steelers finished the season 9-5, a franchise record at the time, and to mark the franchise’s first playoff game the team switched to all-black helmets from their usual gold.
Dan Rooney, son of owner Art, asked Steelers’ equipment manager Jack Hart to put the logo on the right side of the new helmets to see if it stood out. However, Rooney didn’t specify whether he wanted the logo put on both sides, so Hart just put it on the right side.
“It’s a very simple story: It was an arbitrary decision by the equipment manager,” said Joe Gordon, the team’s former communications director, via the Los Angeles Times. “Dan Rooney told him to put the decal on the helmet, and he just went ahead and did it and put it on the right side only. Dan was not specific as to whether he wanted it on both sides of the helmet or just the one side. So once it was done, he never changed it.”
Because of their success with the new helmets, the team decided to keep them permanently. Interestingly, the organisation never considered adding a logo to the left side of the helmet. It stuck, and while some college teams have followed their approach, such as Michigan State, no other team in the NFL has ever gone with just one logo.