NFL

How did the Pittsburgh Steelers get their name? Origin and meaning

A unique marriage of franchise, fanbase and local industry, the Steelers keep working class values at the forefront in an NFL that is full of divas

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How did the Pittsburgh Steelers get their name? Origin and meaning

There is something about the black and gold uniform, the logo on one side of the helmet only, that grabs you. Perhaps it is their dedication to rough and tumble, no-nonsense, smash mouth football. Or the pedigree, with names like Franco Harris, Mean Joe Greene, Lynn Swann, or Terry Bradshaw that has drawn you in. But you have to admit that there is just something special about the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Even the name “Steelers” is unusual. Not an animal mascot like Lions, Tigers or Bears, it is a word that evokes a bit of mystery at the same time as summing up the city perfectly. The team required a state law change to permit their founding, as prior to 1933, Pennsylvania’s blue laws forbade any sporting event from taking place on a Sunday.

Local sports promoter Art Rooney founded the team as the Pittsburgh Pirates, naming his football team after the city’s baseball team. Struggling to find gridiron success, Rooney decided to rename the team and asked fans for suggestions. Of the many that he received, he decided to go with “Steelers” to honor the city’s heritage and the steel mills where a large part of his fanbase was employed. One of the fans who suggested the name, local steel worker Joe Santoni was rewarded with a pair of season tickets which he renewed every year until he passed away at the age of 82 in 2003.

If the name is simple and workmanlike, moreso the team’s logo. Originally designed to resemble the Steelmark logo belonging to the American Iron and Steel Institute, it is a rare example of a logo being lifted wholesale without legal repercussions. The football team, the fanbase and the steel industry are so intertwined and inseparable that the team was approached by Republic Steel to place the company’s logo on the team’s helmets in 1962. The team agreed and modified it to include the team name, creating a unique marketing marriage that endures to this day. Even after the collapse of the steel industry, the team would never dream of dropping their association to the mills. Their hard-working, blue collar fanbase are loyal because the team is loyal to them. No divas, the team struggles and scratches for every yard. Today not as successful as their 1970’s heyday when they won four Super Bowls, there is still hope alive amongst the Steeler Nation that one day they will rise again.