It's a 'Burgh-Thing...I Hope You'll Understand

Fresh off the tails of my blog last week about pearly-white helmets, we now have a fast turn-around into our next entry...and it wasn't planned at all.

I received an email from Leo Strawn alerting me to something we've overlooked up until this point. After reading Leo's information and doing a quick bit of research, I've been able to lay down some parameters and make the required alterations.

Any football fan will recognize the shapes seen here, but very few will know the geometric name for the 3 figures located on the right side of Steelers' helmets. They are called hypocycloids. The design comes from the Pittsburgh steel industry, most notably U.S. Steel, based in the Pittsburgh area.

You will notice that the three hypocycloids are yellow, red, and blue. But how many of you knew that wasn't always the case?

The year was 1962. The Steelers had been wearing plain yellow helmets since making the move from leather to plastic in 1950. A black center stripe was added in 1953. They even added side numbers to the helmet off-and-on beginning in 1957.

On November 18, 1962, in the middle of their season for a home game against the Washington Redskins, the Steelers added a large round logo to the right side of their helmets and it looked like this...
An additional little nugget of information was dropped by our friend Leo. The yellow, orange, and blue colors you see here each have a significance with the steel industry. Yellow represents the burning coal, orange signifies the color of iron ore, and blue is the color for the scrap steel. 

Now, we know that this photo can only be from 1962. Why? Because for the annual Bert Bell Playoff Bowl (a.k.a. the "Second Place Bowl" or the "Loser's Bowl") which pitted the season's divisional runners-up against each other in Miami, the Steelers switched things up a bit and wore black-shelled helmets with the same logo on it. Thus was birthed the iconic look the the Steelers still use to this day. The Steelers never wore yellow helmets again (until they were worn with the 2007-11 Steeler throwback uniforms).
1/6/63 - PITT v DET @ Miami, FL
So what happened to the orange? Why are the Steelers' helmets yellow, red, and blue? I set out to uncover what happened.

The original logo was rather large, said "Steel" and had yellow, orange, and blue hypocycloids as we've already established. The following year, 1963, the logo was altered to include the team name "Steelers" instead of "Steel" in a very thin font. The size of the logo became a little smaller, but the three colors remained the same. The logo remained unchanged from 1963-67.
10/3/65 - NYG @ PITT
12/18/66 - PITT @ ATL
In 1968, the logo shrunk a little more. The orange hypocycloid was colored a bit closer towards red. The "Steelers" word mark continued to be in thin lettering. This style continued through 1977.
9/15/68 - NYG @ PITT
1970 - Terry Bradshaw & Terry Hanratty
1977 - Terry Bradshaw
In 1978, the middle hypocycloid moved even further toward red on the color spectrum. The logo size shrunk just a bit more and the "Steelers" wordmark remained in the same thin font. This version of the helmet logo remained unchanged through 1990.
1978 - Jack Lambert
1989 - Mike Mularky
1990 - Rod Woodson
One last, small change occurred in 1991. No, it wasn't anything to do with the hypocycloids. The Steelers made the wordmark's font bolder.
1991 - Donald Evans
1994 - Neil O'Donnell

I'm sorry to say that I have to admit I'd seen before the 1962 photo above with the yellow helmet and its logo. I saw it. I just never noticed it. Huge thank you again to Leo Strawn for pointing out this little bit of GUD-clean-up that needed tending.

Bill Schaefer

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