The Rise of the Steelers in Pop Culture. Your Stories Wanted.


You may have noticed that the Steelers are starting to make more appearances in situations other than on the gridiron lately, but the Black and Gold Warriors have been in pop culture for a long time. The real question is why more Steelers are not appearing in ads and on TV, given that the team is arguably the most popular in the NFL, and possibly in American sports.

Mean Joe Greene Coke Commercial – 1979Troy Polamalu has been making Head and Shoulders commercials for a few years now.

During Super Bowl XLIII, he revived “Mean” Joe Greene’s Coca-Cola commercial that had aired in 1979 (click the link above to view that classic).

Polamalu has also appeared on the cover of Madden NFL 10, the only Steeler to have done so.

Hines Ward is currently competing on the reality television show Dancing with the Stars. While he is not the first football player to appear on the show, he is the first Steeler. Showing off that dazzling smile as he did the cha-cha in last Monday’s opening round, he looked to be made for the television.

The beginning of the Black and Gold in areas of pop culture outside of football has its humble roots in a 1977 movie called “Black Sunday.” In the movie, a madman is plotting to detonate a bomb during Super Bowl X by flying a blimp into the stadium.

In 1979, Mean Joe made his tour de force appearance in that now-legendary Coke ad. To this day, it is one of the most recognizable TV spots ever made.

Greene followed up his Coke performance with a 1980 movie called “…All the Marbles.” Mean Joe appears as himself in the movie about a pair of tag-team wrestlers, who happen to be women, and their manager.

That same year, Greene would join forces with his four-time Super Bowl winning teammate, Terry Bradshaw on the set of “Smokey and the Bandit II.” The duo played themselves.

From 1990-1994, Burt Reynolds portrayed an former Steelers player in the CBS sitcom “Evening Shade.” After his retirement from football, Reynolds character settles in Evening Shade, AR to become a football coach. Apparently, Reynolds requested that his character be a former Steelers player because he is a fan of the team.

In 1998, another pair of Steelers graced the big screen in the Adam Sandler movie “The Waterboy.” Then head coach Bill Cowher considers drafting Sandler’s character, Bobby “The Waterboy” Boucher to play linebacker for the Steelers, while Hall of Famer Lynn Swann serves as a sideline reporter for ABC.

2003 saw the debut of the play “The Chief.” Pittsburgh native Tom Atkins plays Art Rooney, beloved founder of the Steelers, whose nickname was The Chief. Revivals of the play continue to this day and a film was produced, but has not been released yet.

Most recently, before Ward’s appearance on DWTS and Polamalu’s commercial appearance, was the 2005 remake of “The Longest Yard.” In the movie, Adam Sandler plays the former quarterback of the Steelers who is sent to prison where he leads a team of inmates against a team of guards.

As you can see, the Steelers, as well as several players and a coach, have appeared in pop culture. Thankfully, none of them appear in movies like “Debbie Does Dallas.” Believe me. I’ve looked.

What is amazing, given the history and the popularity of the team, is how have more players not been in more movies, television shows, or commercials?

One can only hope that they are too busy winning football games to have any time left for other pursuits.

What are your favorite, non-football stories about the Steelers, Nation? It can be a chance encounter, or a planned appearance, but I want to hear from you. Post comments below, please.