What Is the Story Behind the Symbol on the Headgear of the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Washington, D.C., 2/2/2011 - The Pittsburgh Steelers will be heading to their 8th Super Bowl this Sunday.  The Steelers have won six Super Bowl championships out of the previous seven in which they’ve played.  Their long and prestigious history is only outdistanced by that of their namesake, U.S. Steel, which, when founded in 1901, was the largest American business enterprise ever launched.  Even before Troy Polamalu was intercepting quarterbacks, Jerome Bettis was busting through defenders for a touchdown or Terry Bradshaw was throwing deep to Lynn Swann, the steel industry was succeeding in its own arena. The three-star symbol that dons half of Pittsburgh’s helmets has a storied past, and it’s one that even the most die-hard of fans may not know.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ famed three-star logo is one of the most familiar symbols in sports, partly because steel’s inherent strength and toughness is a perfect match for the Steelers’ highly-touted, bone-crunching defense.  Only the Steel trademarked logo found on the Steelers helmet brings worldwide recognition and appreciation for these strengths.

Seven decades after Art Rooney purchased the NFL franchise and six Super Bowl victories later, it has come to symbolize the strength of the team and the Steel City it represents. 

The three, four-pointed starlike figures within the circle, called hypocycloids for their geometric origin, made it to the NFL in 1962, when Rooney adopted the Steelmark for his football team.  The Steelers logo is based on the Steelmark logo belonging to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), whose member companies produce over 80 percent of the steel made in America.  The Steelmark was originally created for United States Steel Corporation (called U.S. Steel today), a longtime member of AISI, to promote the attributes of steel:  yellow lightens your work; orange brightens your leisure; and blue widens your world.  The logo’s meaning was later amended to represent the three materials used to produce steel:  yellow for coal; orange for iron ore; and blue for steel scrap.       
                                                                             
Back in the early ‘60s, the Steelers had to petition  AISI in order to change the word "Steel" inside the Steelmark to "Steelers" before the logo was complete.  Cleveland's Republic Steel suggested to the Steelers that they use the Steelmark as a helmet logo.
The Steelers are the only NFL team that sports their logo on only one side of the helmet. At first, this was a temporary measure because the Steelers weren't sure they would like the look of the logo on an all-gold helmet. They wanted to test them before going all-out.
Equipment manager back then, Jack Hart, was instructed to put the logo only on one side of the helmet—the right side. The 1962 Steelers finished with a 9-5 mark and became the team with the most wins in franchise history to date. The team finished second in the Eastern Conference and qualified for the Playoffs. They wanted to do something special for their first postseason game, so they changed the color of their helmets from gold to black, which helped to highlight the new logo.
Because of the interest generated by having the logo on only one side of their helmets and also due to the team's continued success, the Steelers decided to leave the helmet that way permanently.  Today's helmet reflects the way the logo was originally applied and it has never been changed.

AISI, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., serves as the voice of the North American steel industry in the public policy arena and advances the case for steel in the marketplace as the preferred material of choice.  AISI also plays a lead role in the development and application of new steels and steelmaking technology.  AISI is comprised of 24 member companies, including integrated and electric furnace steelmakers, and 140 associate and affiliate members who are suppliers to or customers of the steel industry.  For more news about steel and its applications, view AISI’s Web site at www.steel.org.

Contact:
Nancy Gravatt
Vice President, Communications
American Iron and Steel Institute
Tel: 202.452.7115