When fans christen themselves “Steeler Nation,” you know they’re a force to be reckoned with. And as one of the NFL’s oldest teams, the Steelers appeal to more than just western Pennsylvanians. Throughout their illustrious history, they’ve gained avid supporters from across the country, including President Barack Obama. Because they’ve been around for over 80 years, this football squad has built a rich, strong heritage.
Founded in 1933 by Arthur “The Chief” Rooney, the franchise was originally called the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1940, the name was changed to better represent Pitt’s prominent steel industry, and their three-diamond symbol was adapted from the American Iron and Steel Institute logo. Another temporary name change occurred in '43, when the Steelers merged with the Philadelphia Eagles to form the “Steagles,” as a large number of players were battling overseas during World War II. The following year, they joined the Chicago Cardinals for the same reason, but by the 1945 season, many men had returned home and the NFL's rosters were restored.
Although Pitt posted their first winning record in 1942, the team's real domination of the football world took place during the ‘70s with coach Chuck Noll leading the famous “Steel Curtain.” “Mean Joe” Greene, Ernie Holmes, L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White created a strong backbone that loyal fans will never forget. Plus, thanks to Franco Harris’ legendary “Immaculate Reception” in ’72, the Steelers’ first playoff game in Three Rivers Stadium turned into a remarkable triumph over the Oakland Raiders.
In the action-packed seasons between 1974 and '79, the team did the extraordinary and won four Super Bowl championships (IX, X, XII and XIII). The Steel City snagged the Vince Lombardi trophy yet again after the 2005 and '08 seasons with the help of dynamite quarterback “Big Ben” Roethlisberger. Capturing six victories out of their eight Super Bowls appearances, Pitt could proudly say that they’d won more titles than any other NFL team.
However, winning championships is only one part of their claim to fame. The Steelers have managed to find themselves in the pop culture spotlight in a way that not many football squads have. Rapper Wiz Khalifa celebrated Pittsburgh in his 2010 hip hop song “Black and Yellow,” and scenes from the box-office hit “The Dark Knight Rises” were filmed at the team’s own Heinz Field.
Another big measure of the Steelers’ success is, of course, their devoted followers clad in black and gold. At game time, Heinz Field hosts over 65,000 supporters, but fans who can’t make it to the stadium enjoy gathering at eateries around the city like Primanti Bros.
Nothing identifies a true Steelers fanatic quite like the Terrible Towel. It was conceived by former radio announcer Myron Cope during the 1975 playoffs and helped provide extra team spirit as Pittsburgh went on to win Super Bowl X over the Dallas Cowboys. Ever since then, that rally towel has been an icon, and it is waved everywhere from Mount Everest to the Great Wall of China to outer space. Newborn babies are often wrapped in the Terrible Towel -- irrefutable proof of how proud Pittsburgh folks are of their team. Between the diehard fans and talented players, there’s no doubt that the Steelers Nation will always be united in their passion for the game.