January 30, 2006
The Pittsburgh Steelers three-star logo is a familiar symbol. Displayed on the right side of each player's helmet, the logo symbolizes the strength of the Steelers and the Steel City the team represents. Seven decades after Art Rooney purchased the NFL franchise and four Super Bowl victories later, with a potential championship this year, the story of the Steelmark and how the Steelers acquired it is widely unknown, even to some of the team's most avid fans and supporters.
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). The Steelmark was originally created for United States Steel Corp. 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 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.
To test out the Steelmark and see how it looked on the all-gold helmets, the Steelers equipment manager was instructed to put it on only the right side of the helmet. The year this was done, the Steelers finished with a 9-5 mark and became the winningest team in franchise history to date. Wanting to do something special for its first postseason game, the team changed the color of its helmets from gold to black, which helped to highlight the new logo.
Today's helmet reflects the way the logo was originally applied—on one side only—and it has never been changed.