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Mystery of the Steelers Logo debut


Rampart

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Many of you already know the story of the Steelers logo and the black helmets, but here's a quick recap.

Midway through the 1962 season, on November 18th, the Steelers placed the "Steelmark" on gold helmets for the very first time. The Steelmark logo was owned by the American Iron and Steel Institute and the Steelers were given permission (in fact, encouraged) to use the logo.

STEEL3.jpg

The Steelers went 9-5 in 1962 (winning 6 of their last 7 games) and qualified for the "Bert Bell Benefit Bowl". Also called the Playoff Bowl, this game was an exhibition game played at the end of the seaon between the two runner-ups in each division.

The Steelers wanted to do something special for this game as up to this point that haven't had much of a winning tradition, so they decided to paint their helmets black. This is the first time that the Steelers wore the black helmets and they have become a staple ever since.

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As you can see from this photo, the Steelmark logo reads "Steel" (and not Steelers). You can also see that kick Lou Michaels (79) is wearing the helmet of Bobby Layne (22).

In Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there is a display of Bobby Layne's helmet from this game. This was Layne's last game in the NFL.

Bobby%20Layne%20Helmet%20in%20Canton.png

You can see from this photo that the logo actually reads "Steelers". So what gives? When did the Steelers actually use the word "Steelers" on their helmet for the first time? Was this helmet used by Bobby Layne; is it a fake, or has it been altered after the Playoff Bowl?

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I am taking at face value your statement that this is a photo from Bobby Layne's last game. If so, it's a bit of a head-scratcher. My best guesses...

  • The punter is wearing an older helmet worn by another "22" or the "22" is there for some other reason; Layne wore a different helmet in that game and the Steelers did not have 100% consistency on replacing the "Steel" logo with the "Steelers" logo.
  • The Steelers re-introduced the "Steel" logo for a brief time after the "Steelers" logo had been unveiled. The HOF helmet is actually older than the one in the photo.
  • The HOF is going for "revisionist" history here, either because of trademarking issues or just wanting to display the name of the team rather than the industry. If they did that, they went so far so to intentionally add wear and tear to the decal.

I think something closer to the first explanation makes sense. If that is truly Layne's final game, then it's unlikely that so much of the decal would have been diminished in that one game. I kinda doubt that Layne wore that helmet that day.

As an aside, I am struck by how close the facemask is to the face on the yellow helmet.

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I think Bobby Layne actually retired in training camp in 1963 and then became the QB coach. This may have been a helmet he wore in that camp? It looks like from Helmet Project that the Steelers first put "Steelers" on the helmets in 1963 so its a distinct possibility that this is when its from.

The deterioration could be due simply to the fact that it was getting banged around in an equipment room for lord knows how long, and it's now 50+ years old.

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Bobby Layne didn't start the Playoff Bowl and only came in towards the middle of the 4th quarter.

I think BrianLion's explanation may be the answer -- the helmet is actually from preseason in 1963 and not from the Playoff Bowl. It would explain the "Steelers" logo and the wear and tear.

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