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The team began in 1933 when Pittsburgh native and all-around great athlete Art Rooney applied for an NFL franchise and was awarded one. It cost Rooney $2,500, about $50,000 in today’s value, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were born. He initially named the team after the baseball team in Pittsburgh.
The early days of the team were not profitable, but Rooney was a boxing promoter and quite a capable horse handicapper, and his profits from those ventures kept the team afloat. They made it through the Great Depression years, but barely.
In 1940 Rooney was ready for a change. Instead of being the Pirates, he wanted the team to have its own identity, and after submission of possible new team names, a former coach of the Pirates selected Steelers. Of the 21 people who suggested the name to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, all of them received season tickets for the 1940 season.
The new name didn’t lead to success immediately – they won just two games in 1940 and one game in 1941. But in the modern-day NFL there is no team that has been a more consistent winner, having appeared in the Super Bowl in four different decades.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a storied franchise in the NFL, with a history of success and a winning culture. The team is known for its tough defense and physical style of play, making them a difficult opponent for any team. Key players include a talented quarterback and a dominant rushing attack.
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Championships by the Pittsburgh Steelers
The names Steelers and Super Bowl champions seem to go hand-in-hand.
Super Bowl IX
A dynasty was born when Pittsburgh beat the Vikings 16-6 to win their first Super Bowl of the 1970s. Ten future Hall of Famers were on the field for the Steelers and another Hall of Famer was working the sideline in head coach Chuck Noll.
Super Bowl X
Pittsburgh became back-to-back Super Bowl champions with a 21-17 win over the Cowboys. Wide receiver Lynn Swann finished with 161 yards receiving and was named the game’s MVP.
Super Bowl XIII
After two years away from the Super Bowl, it was a rematch with the Cowboys, and another Pittsburgh win, 35-31. The game featured 25 total future Hall of Famers, including 14 with the Steelers. Among them was MVP quarterback Terry Bradshaw.
Super Bowl XIV
The last of the Steel Curtain dynasty was the 31-19 win over the Rams. Terry Bradshaw was against the game’s MVP, and the defense got to Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo for four sacks. Ten days after the Super Bowl win, and three months after the Pirates won the World Series, the Pittsburgh Penguins changed their colors to black and gold.
Super Bowl XL
With five catches for 123 yards and a touchdown, wide receiver Hines Ward was the MVP for the Steelers fifth Super Bowl title, a 21-10 win over Seattle.
Super Bowl XLIII
Another Super Bowl win, 27-32 over the Cardinals, and yet another wide receiver winning the game’s MVP. Santonio Holmes caught nine passes for 131 yards, including 73 yards on the game-winning drive.
Key Stats by the Pittsburgh Steelers
Only the New England Patriots have more Super Bowl wins than the Steelers’ six Super Bowls. The Steelers have made a total of eight Super Bowl appearances, and that is also only second to the Patriots.
The Steelers have won their division a total of 24 times – 15 times when they were in the AFC Central and nine times as a member of the AFC North. The Steelers have made 32 total playoff appearances.
For a franchise that began as a tragedy, just one postseason appearance between 1933 and 1972, but has become one of the greatest stories ever told, it is fitting that the first draft choice in franchise history was William Shakespeare, a halfback out of Staten Island, New York.
Top Players in Pittsburgh Steelers History
Shakespeare was the third overall pick in 1936 and he was an All-American at Notre Dame. Although his pro career wasn’t much to write, several future members of the Steelers did have such careers.
The Steelers boast twenty members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who are in Canton because of what they predominantly did in Pittsburgh.
There are the pre-dynasty Steelers, like cornerback Jack Butler who played in the 1950s. Guard Walt Kiesling was a three-time All-Pro was both a line coach and head coach for the Steelers. Running back “Bullet” Bill Dudley starred in the 1940s, John Henry Johnson in the 1960s, and defensive tackle Ernie Stautner played 14 seasons and made nine Pro Bowls.
The dynasty Steelers make up the bulk of the Steelers in the Hall of Fame. On offense you have quarterback Terry Bradshaw, running back Franco Harris, center Mike Webster, and wide receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann.
On defense from that era are defensive backs Mel Blount and Donnie Shell, linebackers Jack Ham, and Jack Lambert, and defensive lineman “Mean” Joe Greene.
The post-dynasty Steelers have safety Troy Polamalu, cornerback Rod Woodson, guard Alan Faneca, center Dermontti Dawson, and running back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis.
Top Coaches in Pittsburgh Steelers History
It wasn’t until the late 1950s that the Steelers had any kind of stability at head coach. Until Buddy Parker took over in 1957 no one coached the Steelers for more than four straight seasons. Parker stayed at the helm for eight seasons, and he won 51 games.
Four years later a defensive assistant with the Baltimore Colts was hired for his first head coaching job, and he stuck. His name was Chuck Noll, and when he finally decided to retire after coaching the Steelers for 23 seasons, he had 193 regular-season wins, 16 postseason wins, and four Super Bowl rings.
Chuck Noll is on the NFL’s 100 Anniversary All-Time Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
Succeeding Noll was Chiefs defensive coordinator Bill Cowher. He stayed in Pittsburgh for 15 seasons, won 149 regular-season games, 12 postseason games, and Super Bowl XL. Cowher was twice the NFL Coach of the Year and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.
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