Sports Traditions: Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel

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Timeless Traditions: Terrible Towel

Pittsburgh Steelers fans have a rather unique love affair with towels, and one in particular: the Terrible Towel. How did this yellow cotton bathroom fixture end up elevated from drying duties to team lore? Today we demystify the origins of the Terrible Towel for everyone who is not a member of #SteelersNation.

Sacred Yellow Cotton

Myron Cope, a former Steelers radio announcer, concocted the idea for a way to rally home fans during the team’s playoff run in 1975. The team eventually won Super Bowl X versus the Dallas Cowboys, and since then the towel has served as a secondary banner for the team.

Rooting for you @steelers, with the #TerribleTowel and all! #HereWeGo #herewego

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Since 2010, esteemed guests visiting Heinz Field have had the chance to participate in the “Terrible Towel Twirl,” where they are allowed to lead the crowd in this pre-kickoff tradition. Even one of the first men on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, has had the chance to lead tens of thousands of fans in this timeless tradition.

All Around The World

Given the importance of the Terrible Towel as a symbol for Steelers fans, and its extreme portability, they’ve been spotted all over the world thanks to many members of #SteelersNation.

Look, it made it to the Colosseum!

Where has your #TerribleTowel been? 🤔🌍 #FanFriday

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It’s also been on a cruise (and hopefully made its way to a buffet or two).

#steelernationbahamas #HappilyEverEllex @steelers #bacheloretteparty 🖤💛

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The warm, Indonesian island of Bali looks like the perfect place for a Terrible Towel.

Steelers Nation invades Bali! #steelersnation #travelingtowels #bali #indonesia #pittsburghsteelers #terribletowel #besakih

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And some have even looked to see if it’ll pick up the luck of the Irish. But does your team really need luck when they have Antonio Brown?

Wave Those Towels!

Are you a member of #SteelersNation? Do you wave your Terrible Towel in the air like you just don’t care? Don’t forget to complete the look with the best officially licensed NFL merchandise and apparel at Fanatics.com. Fans of the other 31 NFL teams are welcome too!

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Digging Into The NFL Draft

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10 Years of First-Round Picks

After 32 picks, the first round of the 2017 NFL draft was over. Teams had the chance to select the next big thing – from a new face for the franchise to a highly talented player in a position of need – from the most recently declared class college athletes. These picks may have represented the dreams of not just a team, but a city of fans, and the hope that success is on the horizon.

Just what has the history of first-round picks looked like over the past decade? What positions have been most coveted? Have any vindicated their draft position, or did the franchise that selected them ask for a redo? We profiled the last decade of NFL drafts to highlight the highs and lows across the 32 teams in the NFL.

Positions in Demand

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In nearly 350 picks made in the past ten years in the first round of the NFL draft, almost 100 were used on either a defensive end or defensive back. The Cleveland Browns and five other teams helped this cause by using their first-round picks this year on defensive ends. Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Derek Barnett, Jonathan Allen, Takkarist McKinley, and Taco Charlton all joined the NFL in this year’s draft class as their team’s latest addition in this position.

The future is now.

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Only 6 players from the three safety positions – free safety, safety, and strong safety – have been drafted in a decade of first rounds. And over 30 percent came from the 2017 NFL draft, with Jamal Adams from Louisiana State University to the New York Jets, Malik Hooker from Ohio State to the Indianapolis Colts, and Jabrill Peppers from Michigan to the Cleveland Browns.

NFL’s Farm System

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While Alabama head coach Nick Saban couldn’t unlock a winning formula as the Miami Dolphins head coach, posting a 15-17 record over 32 games, he has proven to be a master of player development. The Crimson Tide accounted for 22 first-round draft picks in the last decade.

History made. #BuiltByBama #rolltide #nfldraft

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Four Alabama players were drafted in the first round this year: Marlon Humphrey by the Baltimore Ravens, Jonathan Allen by the Washington Redskins, O.J. Howard by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Reuben Foster by the San Francisco 49ers.

The Southeastern Conference is well-represented in regard to total first-round picks over the last 10 years, with two other schools in the top five: the University of Florida and Louisiana State University. One of the biggest picks from these prestigious programs was the 2010 NFL draft’s 25th pick, Tim Tebow. He’d post an 8-6 record as a starter for the Denver Broncos before he’d begin a new line of work, but not before uncorking a beautiful Hail Mary against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 AFC wild-card.

Adverse to First

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While some teams have had more picks in the first round, others have been less concerned about the glitz and glamour of those first 32. In fact, the New England Patriots have only had eight first-round picks in the last 10 years, but have had the league’s best record in the same period. With a 10-season record of 126-34, and 20 wins more than the second-place Green Bay Packers, the lack of first-round talent hasn’t hurt the five-time Super Bowl champions.

Only the Seattle Seahawks have had less draft picks in the first rounds – seven – and have made two trips to the Super Bowl, winning one. However, it wasn’t a first-round draft pick that came back to haunt them in their Super Bowl XLIX loss, but New England’s undrafted free agent cornerback, Malcolm Butler.

Who Goes Where?

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In seven of the last ten NFL drafts, a quarterback was selected as the number one overall pick, and four had a QB going in the second overall spot. In three drafts – 2012, 2015, 2016 – there were back-to-back quarterback selections in the top two positions.

If you’re looking for defenders to get drafted in the top 10, try and pay attention during the third and ninth picks. Defensive ends and linebackers have been picked most commonly over the past decade in these spots.

Stacking the Deck

While there’s plenty of roster moves that happen through free agency, many teams built their teams through their picks in the NFL draft. Just as there have been over-hyped players who never lived up to their potential, there were also stars who soared higher than anyone’s initial grades. Get all the best gear to represent your favorite NFL draft picks and team at Fanatics.com!

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An overview of 50 years of Super Bowl Rings

Beyond the eternal glory that comes with winning the Super Bowl – only 19 of the 32 franchises have ever hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy under the bright lights as the confetti falls – players, coaches, front office personnel, owners, and other selected staff from the winning side will end up walking away with some rather ornate, and pricey, jewelry. These rings serve as a reminder of the blood, sweat, and tears that are shed over an NFL regular season, and the added challenge of navigating a one-and-done postseason in pursuit of immortality in America’s most popular sport.

Which NFL teams and players have the most rings? What are some of the best and worst looking rings? Read on to learn more.

Bling & Things

Jostens – the company typically associated with high school class rings and yearbooks – crafted the first NFL championship ring to recognize the Green Bay Packers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs (35-10) in 1967. Since then, they’ve had the honor of producing 32 out of the 50 rings awarded to the winning franchises of football’s biggest game.

While 13 of the 32 franchises have never won the Big Game, several individuals have earned multiple rings – a few who even have enough for their second hand. Neal Dahlen collected the most rings during his time in the NFL, earning seven championships with two teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos. His work in front office and administrative roles allowed Dahlen to earn an honor that no other player, coach, staff member, executive, or owner can claim.

There are a few people who are close behind Dahlen, however, and hope to share the spotlight with him in 2017. Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, currently has six rings – two from his time as a defensive coordinator for Bill Parcells’ New York Giants and four from his time as head coach of the Patriots – and has No. 7 in sight. Belichick will even need to schedule a service for his boat if the Patriots win again. The coach renames his boat, currently called “Six Rings,” after each championship victory.
Several members of the Steelers organization have earned six rings, but no player has earned more than Charles Haley, who has five. Haley won his rings with the San Francisco 49ers in 1989, with a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, 1990, by besting the Denver Broncos, and with the Dallas Cowboys in 1993 and 1994, defeating the Buffalo Bills in back-to-back seasons, and in 1996 when America’s Team vanquished the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Diamonds and Championships Are Forever

 

You can see how the appearance of these NFL championship rings has changed over time. From the first ring awarded to the Green Bay Packers – made of yellow gold and a solitaire diamond over a globe to recognize them as world champions – to the most recent awarded to the Denver Broncos (using orange stones to enhance the team’s mascot and the image of three Lombardi Trophies in the background), each ring tells a story about the franchise receiving it.

The number of diamonds used, the colored stones picked for mascot replication, and the use of white gold or alternative metals have all taken hold in the more modern ring creation process, but every ring still serves as a beautiful reminder of the year that team reached the top of the mountain.

Take the ring awarded to the Pittsburgh Steelers after their victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008-09 season. The organization’s sixth ring opted for setting six diamonds (instead of multiple Lombardi Trophies) around the team’s logo. Oh, the struggle of being a team with an institutional problem of winning champions!

Has your team won it all? If they have won multiple championships, how have their rings changed over time?

To the Victor Go the Stones

Is your team looking to earn its first Vince Lombardi Trophy and appointment with Jostens for a 53-man roster this year? Or are you looking to volunteer to help Coach Belichick repaint his boat? Whoever you’re rooting for, pick up the best officially licensed merchandise and apparel from Fanatics.com. Sorry, NFL championship rings are not sold to the public.

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NFL Playoff Pet Pick ‘Em – Predicting NFL Playoff Winners: Championship Weekend

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There were 12 contenders fighting for the Vince Lombardi trophy. After Wild Card Weekend, there were eight. Now, four more contenders have fallen away after a crazy Divisional Round, and the four left standing head into their respective conference championship games next Sunday.

Last week, we put our experts head to head (or paw to toe) with the pros. Check out the original post where we introduce the contenders if you want a refresher on which pets and objects are in the running as well as their impressive resumes. The real experts, consisting of former players and professional sports journalists, fared generally very well over the last few weeks, and some of our animal friends did surprisingly well too.

Of course, there is the flip side. Some pups just can’t pick worth a dang, but also, some humans can’t either. Where does everybody stand after the Divisional Round?

Albert faces a tough decision
Albert faces a tough decision.

NFL Pick 'Em Leaderboard

Leading The Pack

We have two front-runners in our Pet Pick ‘Em challenge. One isn’t much of a surprise – Mike Golic is not only a human, but he’s a former NFL player and currently hosts a popular sports talk radio show. His current record is an impressive 7-1 (his only wrong pick was Dallas in the Divisional Round).

The other 7-1 record holder? Yep, it’s a pooch. Kylo Ren the pup is also rockin’ the picks with the ease and proficiency of an honest-to-goodness football expert, whose only misstep so far has been going with the Seahawks before they were rolled by Atlanta.

Kyle enjoys his position at the top of the leaderboard.
Kylo enjoys his position at the top of the leaderboard.

There are a bunch of other top contenders in our pool of experts, including humans, like amateur fan Matt. Matt is 6-2, which isn’t too shabby. He’s joined in a tie with several others, including Fox Sports writer Dieter Kurtenbach, Dibs the bearded dragon, Ella the cat, Korra the cat, and Mr. Chester the dog. Good job, Mr. Kurtenbach and Matt – you’re picking as well as these fine animals!

Interestingly, our trusty Coiney (er, coin we used for our coin toss) who got them all right last week, faltered and missed every single pick this week. The other qualified experts, such as Michael Irvin, aren’t doing as hot as Kylo the dog (Irvin is at 5-3, same as Mike Florio). The FiveThirtyEight DataLab is also falling off a bit with a 5-3 record. You can see how Coiney and your other favorite pets are faring in the complete rankings at the bottom of this post. 

The NFL Pick 'Em Pound

Trailing Behind

On the other end of the spectrum, we have those experts who aren’t doing all that great. Most of these are pets, but Leo, a baby human, is also running a 3-5 record (we certainly don’t hold that against him, though – he’s an infant and probably just wants more milk right now).

The rest of the 3-5 (and under) crowd are all cats and dogs. Fortunately, even those at the bottom aren’t completely missing all the picks, as Artemisia the cat and Riggins the dog both have a couple correct picks. Riggins, as we mentioned last week, is half blind, so you can’t blame him at all (don’t you dare even try), and Misi (as her humans like to call her) has better things to do, such as rule over the household like the queen she is.

Artemisia remains undaunted, despite being tied for last place.
Artemisia remains undaunted, despite being tied for last place.

This Weekend’s Games

As we gear up for the conference championships, we’ll really get to see who pulls away from the pack, and who is happier chasing tails or sitting on a windowsill. Now that we’re getting down to the wire, there are fewer games to pick. As the numbers grow smaller, the games become exponentially more important. The winners of this weekend’s matchups will go on to represent their respective conference in the Super Bowl.

Our most fabulous pet picker, Kylo, is gunning for Atlanta and New England to head into the big dance. Amateur fan Matt thinks Pittsburgh will edge out the Pats, while 6-2 Korra the cat thinks the Packers will represent the NFC in Houston. Our favorite half-blind canine, Riggins, also feels strongly that the Super Bowl will feature Green Bay and New England. Bentley, his partner in the Pick ‘Em Pound, is also predicting an Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady Super Bowl.

What will your picks be?

Complete Rankings

Below is a graphic that contains the full standings. But first, we thought you might like to see some of these pets in action!

Bentley ponders his choices.
Bentley ponders his choices.
Maizy seems unimpressed by Dallas or Green Bay.
Maizy seems unimpressed by Dallas or Green Bay.
Garnet is rolling with the Steelers!
Garnet is rolling with the Steelers!
Odellio is on the move to make her picks!
Odellio is on the move to make her picks!

NFL Pick 'Em Complete Rankings

Methodology

Our “animal experts” were pets submitted by members of the Fanatics.com team. Pet owners were given cutouts of the logos for each playoff team and asked to record their furry (or scaly) friends’ choices. Some owners chose to put the logos on the ground, while others put them in a bowl. There were no hard rules for how the choices had to be made, except that owners were not allowed to influence the choices.

The real experts included in this study were selected at random from a pool of former NFL players and sports journalists who currently cover the NFL across a variety of networks and mediums.
No real playoff prediction would be complete without a “wild-card” element, hence our inclusion of random people and inanimate objects, like our beloved Coiney.

NFL Playoff Pet Pick ‘Em – Wild Card

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Every year, 12 football teams vie for the ultimate victory at the end of the NFL season – the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The days leading up to each playoff weekend are rife with analysis and predictions from former players and experts. Predicting the outcome, however, isn’t an easy task, as games can go in either direction at the drop of a hat.

Here at Fanatics.com, we decided to turn to some experts of our own. In addition to random football fans and professionals who know a thing or two about the game, we checked in with some furry experts … and yes, we do indeed mean pets. Super cute and adorable pets.

Shorty debates which playoff team to pick
(Shorty faces a tough decision between the Seahawks and the Lions.)

Who Are the Experts?

Experts part one for the pick 'em.

We had a wide variety of experts on hand to pick the winners of each playoff game. In addition to Coiney, our trusted flip coin, and the data lab from FiveThirtyEight, we checked in with the “real” experts. This includes former player Mike Golic, who now opines for ESPN, and Michael Irvin, former wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, who spends time roaming the desks at NFL Network.

We also put the expertise of a few sports journalists to task. FOX Sports writer Dieter Kurtenbach’s picks are here on display, as are Mike Florio’s (he’s a writer for and creator of Pro Football talk).

We also talked to a few amateur fans. Tyler is a huge Saints fan whose picks might be more from the heart than from strong statistical analysis. We also have 5-month-old Leo and a grandmother from the U.K. There are also a few non-fans, like Margie, who picked on a whim.

Pets for Playoff Pet Pick 'Em

The pets, though, may be stealing the show. Dogs, cats, fish, a gecko, and a bearded dragon made playoff picks. Obviously, these are no ordinary pets.

For example, 10-year-old Albert is a Yorkie who also answers to “Sir Snuggles,” and he’s just fine with that. Shorty, a miniature dachshund, may just be a bandwagon fan, but we’re not telling anyone. Another dog, named Kylo, is a very spoiled only child, much like his namesake. And Charley, who was rescued when he was 2 years old, spends his time trashing his owner’s bed and barking a whole bunch.

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One of our feline experts makes her selection.

As far as cats go, Molly is a catnip freak, and Roofus tends to fixate on laser pointers. Basil spent his youth chasing footballs and hockey pucks … on the TV screen (which obviously makes him an expert in NFL picks), and Korra spends her days perfecting her litter box skills.

Finally, Dibs – the bearded dragon – spends his days stressing out about his reflection, and Tunachi, the fish, is the perfect impartial picker.

Pet owners were given cutouts of the logos for each playoff team and asked to record their furry (or scaly) friends’ choices. Some owners chose to put the logos on the ground, while others placed them in bowls. There were no hard rules for how the choices had to be made, except that owners were not allowed to influence the choices.

Ranking the Contenders After Wild Card Weekend

The Wild Card Weekend has come and gone. How did our experts fare?

It seems our coin toss got them all – that’s right, the most random expert on the board was four for four. Check out amateur fan Matt, who avoided picking with his Southern Florida heart and was 100 percent on his picks last weekend. Former defensive lineman Mike Golic was also in the top spot.

We even had a few adorable animals bat 1.000. Korra, the cat, along with Kylo and Vinny, the dogs, were on fire with their picks. How did they complete this amazing feat? What are they eating that’s giving them all this brainpower? Most importantly, will they keep this trend going?

 

Playoff Pet Pick 'Em Pound

However, not every animal pal did well this past weekend. A couple of dogs failed pretty hard. Riggins, the pooch, chose all the losers in the contests, as did poor little Albert (a.k.a. “Sir Snuggles”). We can’t blame them, though, because they’re canines (also, Riggins can’t see out of one eye, so cut him some slack).

On the human side, one of our non-fan “experts” also put up a huge zero, so picking ’em wrong is not just limited to four-legged creatures. Even professional sports writer Mike Florio only correctly picked two out of four times.   

While Wild Card Weekend was a snoozefest and lacked a ton of drama (all four home teams and higher seeds won their respective contests), there were a few big moments as the winning teams all hit their stride while bowling over their opponents. On the AFC side, Le’Veon Bell certainly turned heads with his unique and super patient rushing attack, and Jadeveon Clowney demonstrated a circus-like acrobatic interception that defensive players dream of. For NFC teams, Aaron Rodgers threw a Hail Mary – again – that was caught for a touchdown – again. We also can’t overlook Doug Baldwin’s fantastic catch … with his butt.

This Weekend’s Games

This weekend is the divisional round when the winners of each of the four games will head to their respective conference championship. Houston rolls into Foxborough as a huge underdog, making New England an easy pick for most of our experts, but not everyone has Tom Brady fever – Vinny, the dog, threw caution to the wind, picking Houston to shock the world with a win in the Northeast.

The rest of the games are more evenly matched (at least, according to Vegas), and the picks coming in reflect that, with some going toward Kansas City. However, Shorty, one of the pups finding himself in the pick ’em pound this week, picked Pittsburgh instead.

Korra, the only feline with a perfect record is picking Seattle and Dallas to meet in the NFC championship game.

Who do you think is going to come out of this weekend with a win?

Cuteness Overload in the NFL

No matter what picks these pets make, they are all super cute (even the fish). Above all, they are loved very much by their humans, who are going to completely overlook their totally wrong NFL playoff picks and instead give them more smooches, catnip, crickets, or dog treats – because that’s what they deserve.

Our pets aren’t the only ones who deserve a treat. Did your team make the playoffs? Celebrate the occasion by buying some gear from Fanatics.com. Even if your team missed out, it’s never too early to start dreaming about next year.

Ella prepares to make her selection.
Elly May ponders who she will choose in the next round.
Garnet remains cheerful despite not being in first place.

Methodology

Our “animal experts” were pets submitted by members of the Fanatics.com team. Pet owners were given cutouts of the logos for each playoff team and asked to record their furry (or scaly) friends’ choices. Some owners chose to put the logos on the ground, while others put them in a bowl. There were no hard rules for how the choices had to be made, except that owners were not allowed to influence the choices.

The real experts included in this study were selected at random from a pool of former NFL players and sports journalists who currently cover the NFL across a variety of networks and mediums.

No real playoff prediction would be complete without a “wild-card” element, hence our inclusion of random people and inanimate objects, like our beloved Coiney.

Sources

College Breakdown of NFL Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers

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The Pittsburgh Steelers we know today got their start in 1933 as the Pirates. Art Rooney founded the team that year, and the franchise joined the National Football League. The squad would play for seven years under the Pirates moniker, despite being somewhat unsuccessful during these early years (they never fielded a winning season).

In 1940, Rooney changed the team name to the Steelers to reflect the heritage of the city of Pittsburgh. The team finally enjoyed their first winning season in 1942. As with many football teams during this time, many Steelers players went off to fight in WWII.

Success in Steeltown

The Steelers currently hold the record for most Super Bowl wins – six. They experienced most of their victories in the mid- to late-’70s (1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979) under the leadership of legendary head coach Chuck Noll and future Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw. Their other two championships came in 2005 under Bill Cowher’s coaching and again in 2008 under head coach Mike Tomlin. Both were captained by current quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  

Big Ben and Co.

Big Ben, as he’s affectionately known, played college football at Miami University. He was a prolific passer during his college days, going over 3,000 yards his first two years and over 4,000 his third. He was drafted in 2004 as the 11th overall player in the NFL Draft, and while he wasn’t the first quarterback selected (2004 was Eli Manning’s and Philip Rivers’ draft class as well), he has certainly performed just as well in the NFL as he did in college.

Antonio Brown is another standout Steeler. He topped the 1,000 receiving yard mark four times in his career. He played college football at Central Michigan, where he had similar stats. Although he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round in 2010, he’s flourished as a Steeler and has earned a starting spot.

Running back DeAngelo Williams is another Steeler to note. He attended and played football at the University of Memphis, where he pounded the rock for nearly 2,000 yards (not once but twice). He was drafted in 2006 by the Carolina Panthers, but he made his way to Pittsburgh in time for the 2015 season.

Le’Veon Bell also went to college in Michigan, but he attended Michigan State for his academic career. He had a standout year in 2012. Bell ran for over 1,700 yards and was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Steelers.

Finding the right mix of players and backgrounds is a critical part of building a successful franchise. Let’s take a look at where the current Steelers squad suited up during their college playing days.

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Ohio River Valley Represent

The standout state in the graphic above is certainly Ohio, where eight current Steelers went to college. Pennsylvania is up there as well; it produced five Steelers players. Other notable states include Florida with six players; Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky with four players each; and California, Maryland, and North Carolina with three Steelers each.

An Even Distribution

The top producing schools for the Pittsburgh Steelers tend to be distributed pretty evenly across a handful of universities. The following have contributed two players each: Central Michigan, Florida State, Florida, Kent State, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford, and Tennessee.

The Sounds of the SEC

The SEC has a strong showing on the Steelers roster; it’s produced 12 players. The ACC is a close second with 11. The Big Ten conference sent eight players to Pittsburgh, while the Mid-American Conference sent seven. Breaking down between offense and defense, of the SEC’s contributions to the Steelers lineup, eight players fall to the offensive side of the ball, while four fall to the defensive side. The ACC players tend to favor the defensive side, while the Big Ten contributed more offensive players. Overall, the offense seems to have a greater diversity of conference roots.

With many different colleges represented, the Steelers have been able to find repeated success using their diverse base of players.

Whether you’re a Pittsburgh fan or you want just to follow your favorite college player’s career through the NFL, Fanatics.com has all the gear your heart desires.

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NFL Drafts 1995–2015: Diamonds in the Rough

NFL Drafts 1995-2015: Diamonds in the Rough

In assessing the viability of a future NFL player, draft position has always been a critical indicator for career success. Early draft picks tend to have longer tenures in the league and have the best production; this is fueled in part by teams’ undertaking elaborate means to get the best college players and scout prospects before other teams can grab them. However, history is full of gems who eluded the scouting report.

Take Richard Sherman, for example. A key component of the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win, he is currently third among active players for interceptions and defended passes. Despite this, Sherman was picked in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, based on a sub-par assessment of his athleticism during the scouting combine. Another example is Shannon Sharpe, the NFL Hall of Famer who helped lead the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl wins and the Ravens to one. He was drafted in the seventh round in 1990.

We tallied the late-round draft picks from 1995 to 2015 in an attempt to show where the draft got it wrong. Looking at the most successful of the late picks paints a portrait of the randomness of the draft and reveals that some of the finest diamonds in the NFL truly were found in the rough.

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Judging Greatness in NFL’s Late-Round Quarterback Picks

Students of the draft know that Tom Brady bursts the illusion that a top quarterback must be drafted in the first round. Since taking over as starting quarterback for the New England Patriots in 2001 after then–starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe was sidelined for internal bleeding, Brady has been the epitome of the top-tier league quarterback and the face of the NFL. Fifth on the all-time career passing yards list, third for career touchdown passes, and the postseason leader for passing yards and touchdowns, Brady is responsible for the longest winning streak in NFL history, the most consecutive playoff wins, and the only undefeated regular season under the NFL’s 16-games schedule. The 10-time Pro Bowler and four-time Super Bowl champion was also picked 199th in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, and he was only drafted because of intervention from the Patriots’ front office.

Brady, however, is not the only late-draft quarterback to break out, as illustrated in the above graphic. Three-time Pro Bowler Matt Hasselbeck has thrown 3,197 pass completions for 5,285 attempts as of Week 14 and led the Seattle Seahawks to six playoff appearances and a Super Bowl, where the Seahawks were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hasselbeck was drafted 187th in the sixth round of the 1998 draft.

Derek Anderson, a one-time Pro Bowler and current reserve quarterback to Cam Newton on the playoff-bound Carolina Panthers, was drafted 213th in the sixth round of the 2005 draft. In his Week 1 start in 2014, Anderson completed 25 of 40 passes for 277 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Another example is Matt Cassel. The only quarterback in NFL history to start a league game without ever starting in college, Cassel started for the Patriots in 2008 after Brady took a season-ending knee injury. Cassel went on to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to their first divisional championship and earned his Pro Bowl berth following this; he was drafted 230th in round seven of the 2005 draft.

Late-Round Defender Stat Profiles

Hidden Defense

When Adalius Thomas was drafted in 2000, no one knew if he was worth the sixth-round pick used to get him. Even though he was part of the 2000-2001 Baltimore Ravens team that won Super Bowl XXXV, he only played four games that year. Competing with Michael McCrary and Peter Boulware for play time at the outside linebacker position, Thomas found success – and a berth in the Pro Bowl – as a special teams player. In 2005, he led the NFL in non-offensive touchdowns. With a career 517 tackles, 53 sacks, 15 forced fumbles, and seven interceptions, Thomas was one of the most productive defensive players in the league. Later in his career, he was selected as both a 2006 Pro Bowler and All-Pro as a first-team outside linebacker.

Thomas’s success emphasizes the fact that quarterback is not the only position that can be successfully harvested from the late draft. Many successful defensive players were drafted in the late rounds, as evidenced in the graphic above. There are several examples of late-round success: The Miami Dolphins’ Yeremiah Bell – despite being drafted 213th in round six in the 2003 draft – amassed 726 career tackles and 13 sacks. Cato June, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Indianapolis Colts, made the 2005 Pro Bowl and amassed a career tally of 498 tackles. June was drafted 198th in round six of the 2003 draft.

Conclusion

One of the factors that make NFL drafts so exciting is its unpredictability. It is just as likely for a top pick to be a flop as a sixth-round pick to turn out to be the best quarterback in a generation. While scouting is a great resource for determining athleticism and raw skills, it cannot measure how a player will work with his teammates and coaches or how much heart the player will have in his career. As such, draft picks will always have a certain element of chance and blind luck associated with them, allowing hidden gems to be found in the late rounds.

Sources

Methodology

We looked at Pro Football Reference, analyzing all draft picks from 1995 to 2015 and their corresponding career stats. For all of these assets above, we looked at players drafted in rounds five through seven who played in at least one Pro Bowl. We filtered the results only to focus on players drafted by the following teams: Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Francisco 49ers. These teams were selected because they have each drafted at least three Pro Bowlers in rounds five through seven since 1995.

Fair Use Statement

We grant permission to use the images found on this page freely. When doing so, we ask that you kindly attribute the creators by linking to this page so your readers can learn more about the project and its methodology.

The Evolution of the Pittsburgh Steelers Jersey

evolution of the pittsburgh steelers jersey

In June, the Pittsburgh Steelers created a lot of excitement among fans by introducing the “bumblebee” jersey, which has been worn occasionally since 2012. The black-and-gold horizontal-striped jersey with black-on-white number patches – which team president Art Rooney II once admitted looked like a prison uniform – is based on the 1930s then–Pittsburgh Pirates uniform and has became a favorite among jersey buyers. The “bumblebee” will debut this season on November 1 against the Bengals.

“We wanted to use a jersey that we wore early in our history as we celebrate our 80th season,” Rooney said in justifying his decision to launch the unique jersey in 2012. “We have never used those jerseys since the 1934 season and I think our fans will be excited to see our players wear them in action this year.”

For many, a team’s jersey is the most identifiable symbol of the team. As players spend the game masked and helmeted, the field uniform is the visible avatar of the team, carrying the fans’ passions and anguish on its sleeves. The jersey is a part of the brand, which represents the team’s successes, failures, rivalries, and accomplishments. It’s not so much that if the jersey is liked, the team will be liked; the jersey represents the team and as the team is successful, the jersey becomes more revered.

Sports Illustrated hit on this point in an analysis of the success of college football team the Oregon Ducks (University of Oregon). “[This] brand wasn’t built by the marketing department or by a consultant,” wrote Andy Staples for SI. “The staff at Nike, one of the best brand-building companies in America, had a hand in the process, but the people most responsible were the coaches and the players. Like anything else, a football team’s brand is mostly defined – for better or for worse – by the quality of the product. Coca-Cola could have actors sing about buying the world a Coke, but the world wouldn’t have bought many if those Cokes had tasted terrible.”

“In Oregon’s case, Nike’s uniform designs and technological advances are vital components. But so is the blur offense created by former coach Chip Kelly and refined by successor Mark Helfrich and coordinator Scott Frost. And the most important factor is a culture that has remained intact through three coaching changes over 20 years.”

In the case of the Steelers, the jersey has come to represent an 82-year history during which they transitioned from an also-ran team with the longest record for going without a championship pre-merger to the team with the most Super Bowl wins (6), most Super Bowl appearances (8), most conference championship appearances (15), most conference championship games hosted (11), and most AFC championships (8) post-merger. Arguably one of the most successful teams in the modern era, the black and gold represents years of toil, hardship, and long-due redemption for a team as hard as the reputation of its host city.

Pittsburgh Steelers jersey history timeline

The History of the Steelers Jersey

1933: Sports promoter Art Rooney purchases an NFL franchise for $2,500 with the intentions of converting his semi-pro team, the Majestics, into a pro team. As was tradition at the time, Rooney changes the name of the team to the city’s baseball team name, the Pirates.

The 1933 jersey is engineered to give the ball carrier as much of an advantage as possible: The black vertical stripes on a gold background are actually raised felt, meant to cause friction against the ball when the carrier presses it to his body to reduce the possibility of fumbles. The original 1933 jersey also bears the coat of arms for the City of Pittsburgh on its chest as a way of getting the hometown crowd behind them.

The 1933 jersey is no longer thought to exist, and no high-definition photos or diagrams are available. When the Steelers sought to recreate the jersey for its NFL 75th Anniversary throwback in 1994, they were unable to make a faithful reproduction, as the exact design of the coat of arms is also lost to time. The throwback featured non-raised stripes and the current city crest.

Despite the jersey’s engineering, the ’33 team finishes 3-6-2. The team would not finish above .500 until 1942.

1934: The 1934 jersey features raised stripes running horizontally. Instead of the coat of arms, two black-framed black-on-white number panels appeared on the chest – a unique feature among NFL jerseys. It will be this jersey that will become the “bumblebee” throwback.

Uni-Watch investigated this jersey and found the team only wore it during one game in 1934, instead of the 1933 jersey. This game, based on photographic evidence from the University of Pittsburgh, was the November 12, 1933 game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, which the Pirates/Steelers won 32-0. For most of its games that year, the team wore either a solid yellow jersey with black chest numbers, a black jersey with gold sleeve bands and chest numbers, or a yellow jersey with wide black sleeve bands and black chest numbers. Many suspect that the team wore the city crest jersey for four games that year.

Nobody knows why the Pirates/Steelers cycled through so many jerseys that year.

1940: The Pirates change their name to the Steelers in reference to Pittsburgh’s steel industry. To help build morale, the White House asked the Steelers to continue playing – despite the fact that most of the team’s line-up has been drafted into World War II.

1943: To cope with the financial stresses, manpower shortages, and diminished market, the Steelers merge with Pennsylvania’s other NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles, becoming the “Steagles.” The team plays in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and embraces the Eagles’ green and white: The new jersey features white chest numbers and vertical sleeve stripes on a seafoam green jersey. The merged team finishes the 1943 season with the Steelers’ second winning-season record (the first was the year prior).

1944: The Steelers merge with the Chicago Cardinals as a result of an uneven number of teams in the league, forming the “Card-Pitts.” This marks the Pittsburgh franchise’s only winless season. The experiment ends in 1945 when the Boston Yanks permanently merge with the now-defunct Brooklyn Tigers.

1954: The first “modern” Steelers uniform emerges – the black at-home jersey with gold horizontal sleeve bands and gold chest numbers. The helmet transitions from leather to plastic – although, facemasks will not become compulsory until the 1960s.

1960: The latest jersey debuts; it is similar to the 1954 jersey, except that it is tighter. It is unclear whether this was intentional, as logic suggests a looser jersey would afford more comfort and freedom of movement.

1963: This year marks not only the first use of the Steelers’ logo – which is based on U.S. Steel’s three-points logo – but also introduces a new away uniform. The jersey is white with yellow diamond-shaped number patches at the shoulder, black chest numbers, and black sleeve and collar cuffs. The logo is placed on the right side of the helmet only, allegedly because owner Art Rooney was on the fence about it. The right side–only helmet logo is now Steelers tradition.

1966: This year marks the debut of a new home uniform: a black jersey with a yellow diamond “yoke” at the shoulders and collar and white numbers at the chest and high on the sleeves. The Steelers are the only team to use anything other than a rectangular “yoke” on their jerseys. The “Caped Crusader” jersey – so named because it resembles Adam West’s Batman costume – was designed to stand out from other NFL jerseys and to draw attention to the Golden Triangle development in Pittsburgh. The players hated the jersey, and the triangle faded easily.

1974: From the team’s inception until 1971, the Steelers only had eight winning seasons. The ’70s change all this, starting with the 1974 season that nets the team its first league championship at Super Bowl IX. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw, defensive tackle “Mean Joe” Greene, defensive end L.C. Greenwood, defensive tackle Ernie Holmes, and defensive end Dwight White wear the white away jersey with gold horizontal stripes and black shoulders and chest numbers.

1975: A new home jersey follows the 1974 away jersey in design, with a black jersey with gold and white alternating stripes and white numbers on the shoulders and the chest. A white American Bicentennial patch appears on the jersey for Super Bowl X. Bradshaw and the “Steel Curtain” win the Super Bowl this year, as well as in 1978 and 1979.

1988: With minor alterations, the 1974 and 1975 jerseys are still used today. However, in 1988, the Steelers added an “AJR” patch to their jerseys to mark the passing of Rooney.

2000: The Steelers logo patch is permanently added to the jerseys at the left shoulder, and the NFL logo is introduced to the front of the collar – as it is for all NFL jerseys.

The Black, White, and Gold

In 2009, then-governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell and then-governor of Arizona Jan Brewer put an unorthodox twist on the traditional governors’ wager on championship games. Instead of daring each other to perform an asinine stunt, the bet dictated that the losing governor would have to treat the winner of an essay contest in the winning governor’s state to an all expense–paid vacation in the losing governor’s state. For Super Bowl XLIII, Rendell had Steelers fans explain why they loved the Steelers, in 250 words or less.

The winner, Cole Hughes, a Residence Inn manager, expressed what many Steelers fans feel about their home team in describing how he and his father dealt with having only one ticket to the 1972 AFC Championship: “My dad, who was a steelworker, somehow came up with one ticket,” Hughes wrote. “We went down to Three Rivers with the hope of getting another. Not one single ticket was even being scalped that day, so it didn’t happen.”

“He wanted me to use the ticket. I wanted him to use the ticket. We went back and forth for 15 minutes outside of Gate A, each insisting the other use the ticket. At 13, I knew enough to insist he use it as he had gone through many losing seasons with the Steelers. I reasoned that this was the beginning of something good and I would get to my share of AFC Championships.”

“I convinced him to use the ticket, which he did, and I took the bus home and listened to the game on the radio with my buddies. We always had a great memory of that day with that one ticket.”

The Steelers of today pale in comparison with the Steelers of the ’70s or even the Steelers of the last decade; but for a city as hard-nosed and hard-working as Pittsburgh, the Steelers are the ideal team. They didn’t see a championship for their first 38 years, they had to fight for respect and recognition, and they were regularly lost in the haze of Philadelphia’s and New York’s flashier teams. Yet the Steelers are still owned and run by a direct descendent of its founder, who never moved, and the team is still the fixture in Pittsburgh society it was more than 80 years ago.

The black, white, and gold have came to represent the tradition of the NFL’s most storied team, and, like the team, the history and evolution of the jersey represents a never-ending passion for what could be and what was.

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