Steelers To Wear Throwbacks Again: A Browns Fan Was Never More Right


Oct 28, 2012; Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) wearing a throwback uniform from 1934 blends into the stadium and the offensive line making this uniform hard to distinguish. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

It has been 7 full months since we have last seen the Steelers in Heinz Field. It was a great feeling to see that black and gold uniform back in action Saturday night against the NY Giants. The black and gold is an iconic NFL uniform which in today’s NFL – is dwindling. The others are: Oakland, Dallas, Cleveland, Green Bay, Buffalo, NY Giants, NY Jets, Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington and San Francisco.

October 28, 2012; Former Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) was one of the few who could wear this prison bumblebee uniform well. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Unbelievably a Browns Fan Has Never Been More Right

A couple weeks ago I was out having dinner with a friend who happens to be a Cleveland Brown’s fan and across the restaurant’s flat screen flashed a video highlight of the Steelers James Harrison wearing the infamous 2012 throwback uniform. The bumblebee prison uniform, the uniform where it is difficult to read a number and the entire offensive line looks like swarm of bees, impossible to distinguish one player from the other. My Cleveland Brown friend stopped in mid sentence and disgustedly said: “Now why do they wear those uniforms? They are so ugly.” We weren’t even talking about football. It was just his instinctual and emotional reaction when the uniform flashed across the screen. Since I first saw that throwback uniform that has always been my reaction too. It is not often I agree with a Browns fan especially in northeastern Ohio, but this Brown’s fan was never more right in his opinion about the Steelers.

The 1985 Portland Breakers uniforms look similarly close to the new Miami Dolphins uniform. Courtesy bing images.

Some Teams Should Wear Throwback Permanently

I didn’t have an answer for him because I have no earthly answer as to why the Steelers have chosen to wear these particular throwbacks. I know it is not a mandate from the NFL because most of the teams don’t wear throwback uniforms. So why do the Steelers wear them year in and year out, two times a year? I wish some teams would wear throwbacks permanently as their current uniforms are just unsightly: Seahawks with their awful color scheme, Bengals are so busy – too much going

Aug 4, 2013; Canton, OH, The Miami Dolphins once had iconic uniforms but heir new look this year is eerily similar to the Portland Breakers of the now defunct USFL league. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

on, Ravens and Saints all black uniforms are drab and have no imagination. I could go on and on but the Dolphins, what have they done to their uniforms? It seems they modeled themselves after the USFL franchise Portland Breakers. Now why would an organization with iconic uniforms model themselves after a defunct USFL league and team? It doesn’t make any sense. Just a terrible decision.

Why Have the Steelers Worn Throwbacks Twice a Year?

The local Pittsburgh writers who have access to the Steelers don’t seem to have a concrete answer as to why the Steelers do or why they pick the uniforms they wear. One thing I do know is the Steelers black and gold uniform is the best in the league. The Steelers uniforms are classic. Yes I am biased. I love that uniform. When they wear the black and gold it makes the viewing experience more pleasurable. For a long time I didn’t like when they wore the white jersey, especially in the Super Bowl’s, but after many years, I have since learned to appreciate the white Steelers away jersey. For whatever reason uniforms make the game more pleasurable for me. When the Steelers aren’t playing and I am torn between two or three important games to watch and if all else is equal, I will pick the game with the best uniforms.

December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA. The classic black and gold uniform just pops in the Pittsburgh winter sunlight. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers fans have been lucky for so many reasons and one is that the Steelers haven’t really messed with their black and gold uniform as so many other organizations have with theirs. I hated the change to the italic numbers in 1997 and I wish the block numbers would come back but other than that, they have only made a few tweaks such as adding the Steelers decal to the jersey and cutting in half the stripes on the sleeves but that is only because of the way the uniforms are made today. Those are acceptable “tweaks”.

What is not acceptable are the “bumblebee prison uniforms”. I know I am not the only person out there who thinks these Steelers throwback are is abysmal. In my personal experience the dislike for the Steelers bumblebee prison uniform has been unanimous from the Steelers fans and football fans I have talked to. Why wear these awful uniforms when arguably you have one of the sharpest and best uniform’s in the league, if not the best? Why do the Steelers want to ruin the experience for so many fans, including young impressionable fans that may make only one game all year – or – maybe the only game in their life and have to watch the Steelers play in the infamous indistinguishable bumblebee prison uniform?

These Throwbacks are Bad For Business

Apparently the front office didn’t learn from their past throwback mistake. These Steelers throwbacks worn in 1994 were similar too and just as bad as the current version. How many of these do you see fans wearing in Heinz field today? Any? Courtesy bing images.

What business, any business, do you know of, that if given only 16 opportunities to showcase their product in an entire year, would put out something so unattractive 2 of those times, especially when they already have a good sense it will turn off many if not most of the fans of their product and give fans of competing products an opportunity to make fun of them? The Steelers have shown brilliance for the last 40+ years. Why are they showing such ineptitude here? Why are the Steelers so out of touch with the fans (and their own players) opinions on these uniforms? Why do they keep wearing these awful throwbacks? The fact is the Steelers are messing with their brand when they don’t put out their best product. So in a sense they are changing the traditional Steelers uniform when they don’t wear them.

Answers as to Why

The front office will tell you it is a sense of history but if that is true then why honor the 1934 team 2 years in a row? What is so special about the 1934 team when there are 6 Super Bowl championship teams? Bottom line is it is about money. It is an opportunity to sell something different from a brand that has such a loyal following, a following that will buy it just because the brand, the Steelers, wear it. Maybe the Steelers overestimated the fans acceptance of these bumblebee throwbacks last year producing too many jerseys to sell. I suspect that by wearing the throwback uniforms again this year, they are hoping to stir up interest to get rid of the mass stash of these hideous uniforms which did not sell as they had anticipated.

The Steelers 1974 away jersey: Block numbers and sleeves to the elbow. Courtesy bing images and Sports Illustrated.

Solution to the Throwback Quandary

Every year there are 4 preseason games: Two home games and two road games. Why not wear throwbacks in all four pre-season games? Away jersey throwbacks, home jersey throwbacks, the Steelers can wear 4 entirely different uniforms thus offering more Steelers gear for the fans to purchase. Even if most fans hate the bumblebee prison uniform from 1934 they might love the 1963 away throwback jersey or the 1952 home throwback jersey. As much as I hate the current throwbacks I would not care if they wore throwbacks for all four preseason games. Would anyone really care? And yet the four pre-season games gives the Steelers the opportunity to showcase and market their throwback uniforms even more, leaving the traditional, classic and striking black and gold uniforms for the games that matter – the regular season and playoffs.

Do You Want: The Bad News or the Good News?

I would love to see this Steelers away game jersey from the 1960’s as a throwback. Courtesy bing images.

For those who loved the bumblebee prison uniforms and unfortunately for the majority who hate them – it was reported this past week that the bumblebee prison jerseys are coming back for one game which, was reported be the November 17 Detroit Lions game. The silver lining here is they are only wearing them for one game and not ruining two home games as they did last year. I should note that I loved the previous throwback uniforms: white pants with yellow and black stripes, black jersey and gold block numbers. But I hated, hated those yellow helmets. If they had worn their black helmets with that uniform, as they did in the 1960’s that would have been a really sharp look.

Not sure the Immaculate Reception would be viewed as it is today had the Steelers been wearing the prison bumblebee uniform from 1934. Courtesy NFL Films and bing images.

The Immaculate Beeception

If I still haven’t been able to get my point through then imagine this: The Immaculate Reception game occurred with the Steelers wearing the 1934 prison bumblebee uniform. Do you think that would take away from the repeated highlights of the NFL’s undisputed greatest play of all time? How many people would be distracted by those uniforms and instead of marveling at the miracle play, their response is: “What were they doing wearing those ugly uniforms?” I hope the Steelers front office can understand that for the fans, it is about the experience of it all and those classic black and gold uniforms are a big part of that experience. For some fans any Steelers game might be the first, the last or the maybe the only Steelers game they will ever come to see in their life. To have to watch the Steelers in uniforms that don’t even resemble the Steelers, could ruin that experience. It does for me.