Steelers vs Gridiron Uniform Database. Discrepancy? Who's right?

Steelers' 19341933 Throwback Unveiled
by Rob Holecko

Hmmm.  Interesting that the player modelling the jersey is wearing number 33,
considering the jersey was actually worn in 1933.

     At 4:30 PM Tuesday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced during a live videocast at, the new throwback uniforms that they will be wearing this fall.  Owner Art Rooney II (pictured above with a player modelling the uniform) announced that they would be wearing a design originally worn by the team in 1934.  The jersey shown has black numbers (front and back) inside of white rectangles, on top of a black and yellow alternating horizontal stripe pattern.  They are paired with khaki pants, and yellow socks with black stripes.  Apparent on the 2012 throwback version is the Steelers' 80th anniversary patch as well as the ever ubiquitous Nike swoosh on both the jersey and the pants.

     Currently in the Gridiron Uniform Database, we have for 1934 a more basic design, while we do have a version with the number-in-rectangle design for 1933, although we had the background color for that rectangle as yellow.  Clearly more research will be needed in this area.

     So do we at the Gridiron Uniform Database take this as proof that the Steelers did indeed wear this?  Are they infallible just because they are the organization in question?

     In short, do we take their word for it, or do we insist on further photographic evidence?  As we get further back, in particular as we look towards trying to tackle the 1920s, actual photographic evidence will be harder and harder to come by.

     Here at the Gridiron Uniform Database, accuracy is our number one goal.  If and when we can say with certainty that the Steelers did in fact wear this jersey uniform during the 1934 season, we will update it accordingly.  For now, we will be content saying without a doubt only that they will be wearing this throwback in 2012.

     Regardless of what year they are from, what do you think of these anyway?

Added at 6:00 PM EST.....I just saw in Uni Watch comments someone posted a link to this 1934 Pirates team photo on eBay, it also has the players wearing this jersey... (Although of course a team could be wearing the previous year's unis in a team photo which may have been taken before the season started.)

Added at 6:10 PM EST...  Further searching on the internet turned up this: (at

The player in question Warren Heller, did in fact only play on the Pirates in 1934 through 1936, and was not on the 1933 squad.  This is backed up by his entry at  But this football card, however, has the numerals with a yellow background, not a white one.

Apparently the official company line of the Steelers, that they wore the 1994 throwback design with the vertical stripes and the city crest logo in 1933, and the one we saw unveiled today in 1934, very well may be true.

Our historian Tim Brulia, however, begs to differ:
The best research for proof would lie in looking through 1933 and 1934 newspapers. Pittsburgh had three daily newspapers in 1933 and 1934; the Post-Gazette, the Press and the Sun-Telegraph. I dug as best as I could through all three some years ago at the Pennsylvania State Library in Harrisburg. Based on what I could find (which wasn't easy), the Pirates started the [1933] season wearing the city seal jerseys (which inspired the 1994 throwbacks) and then around mid-late season went to the 2012 throwbacks.
My research indicated that the 1934 jerseys were plain with no striping until later in the season when the Pirates put Northwestern stripes on the sleeves. 

The team photo that states "1934" for the Pirates very likely is from 1934. BUT, I have a good hunch that the picture is likely from training camp and was never worn during the 1934 regular season by the Pirates. Black and white photography from this era will be difficult as the yellows (or golds if you prefer) came across as quite dark, in some cases almost as dark as black itself.
So there you have it... our best research indicates that the 2012 throwback unveiled today, was never actually worn in a game in 1934.  As our Bill Schaefer put it: "Looks like the Steelers fell victim to that old 'yearbook' shot/ team photo that said 1934 but was 1933's picture. They shoulda checked our site first!" (Note: Technically it was a 1934 picture, as Heller was in it who didn't join the Steelers until 1934, but it was taken apparently before the season with players wearing the previous years' jerseys.  Note that some of the players in the picture did not have numbers yet, which would seem to led credence to it being a "pre-season picture" -RH)

We would love to see a verifiable photograph from a 1934 game showing this jersey was worn in a game prove us wrong.  Until then, we'll stick to our assertion that the jersey unveiled today was worn actually worn on the field only in 1933.

But what about the Warren Heller football card pic?  Surely since Heller didn't debut until 1934, that must prove that the jersey was worn then, right?  We asked Tim about that and he said: "Again likely, taken from a possible publicity shot in 1934, prior to the start of the season."  Added Bill:

The Warren Heller card - why are we so hung up on the card? It's not like it's an actual photograph like cards in the 70s forward. They did have these people called 'artists' back in the 30s as well. All they had to do was take Heller's face and draw it on the uniform from 1933. If it is a card for 1934, they likely wouldn't have used a shot (uniform) from 1934. That would have appeared on the 1935 cards. Even recent years work that way. When the 2012 cards come out, they'll have shots from 2011.
What we really need to find are football cards from the 1935 series to see what teams wore from 1934.

There you have it.  For now we'll stand by our assertions that the Steelers are mistaken.  The jersey unveiled today was not worn by the Steelers during the 1934 season.  If any further research uncovers anything to the contrary, we at the Gridiron Uniform Database will update it accordingly.

This picture from the 9/10/1934 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of the Pirates home opener against the
Cincinnati Reds, may or may not back up the Gridiron Uniform Database's assertion that the Pirates did not
actually wear the jersey in question during the 1934 season.


  1. In the press release, it was mentioned that the Steelers used an actual jersey to recreate the throwback. Maybe contacting them for a photo of it would allow you to settle the white vs. yellow rectangle discrepancy.

  2. excellent post gridiron uniform guys but the question now is...who's going to tell Rooney and the Steelers that they are wrong and need to say it's from late '33 and not '34?

  3. Do we actually have any photos of these uniforms in an actual game?

  4. Great job with the research!! I have a thing for throwbacks. Despite the Steeler's getting the year wrong, I think the Nike interpretation with modern features is beautiful. Can't wait to buy one!!

  5. I'm with you. 1933. But the uniforms still suck.

  6. Teams are notorious for taking information from the wrong sources. In the 90's, the former Montreal Expos retired the number of Jackie Robinson when he played for the minor league Montreal Royals. Soon after, they were busy wiping the egg off their faces when it was pointed out that he wore a different number. Whoever made the decision on the original number went by a photo in the Ken Burns documentary--which was rife with errors regarding the time frame of the photos used.

  7. I think Rampart's question is a good one. So far, I haven't been able to find a photo of the Pirates wearing the uniforms these throwbacks are based on in an actual game. Is it possible that the uniforms in the team photo were never used on the field?

    I suppose we can't absolutely rule out either 1933 or 1934 until we have a photo or account from every game in those two years showing what uniforms the Pirates wore.

  8. A little late but there are 1934 Diamond Matchbooks with pictures of the players wearing these uniforms including Warren Heller, Ben Smith and John Mcnally who were not on the team in 1933. Also in one of the 1934 National Chicle card's background there is a player wearing this uniform, since I assume these were painted from photos it would be odd if they used auniform no one wore. Also the Player (Ernie Caddel) was a Detroit Lion and the Detroit Lions didn't exist in 1933, they were the Portsmouth Spartans. BTW that 1934 Lions Pirates game was in Detroit maybe these were away uniforms.

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