Arthur J. Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers on July 8, 1933 and it remains the seventh oldest franchise in the NFL. Initially known as the Pirates, they experienced difficulty in their first forty years without clinching any titles until achieving the AFC Central division title in 1972. Taking home the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Steelers’ win at Super Bowl IX two years later, earned Art Rooney much admiration from sports fans all over the world.
Between 1972 and 1979, the 1970s Steelers began one of the greatest streaks in sports history when they won eight consecutive playoff berths, seven AFC Central titles and four AFC championships after so many years of frustration. The Steelers became the first team to win four Super Bowls and the only team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice. In the 1970s, the AFC won its division 10 times for the first time since the NFL merged in 1970.
The lengthy list of Pittsburgh Steelers heroes from the 1970s can be summed up by Head Coach Chuck Noll, who was appointed in 1969. Joe Greene, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert were all-star defensive tackles, Terry Bradshaw quarterbacked the team to victory, cornerback Mel Blount mirrored their success and Franco Harris ran his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame – alongside Noll – as soon as they became eligible. This group is largely credited for forming what many consider to be the greatest professional football team ever assembled.
Pittsburgh’s success in the 1970s proved to be a stark contrast to the Steelers’ experiences in their pre-decade years. Just 22 victories were achieved across seven seasons at Forbes Field, necessitating Rooney finding solutions to remain competitive. Road trips were made to cities including Johnstown and Latrobe (PA), Youngstown, Louisville and New Orleans, so as to avoid rivalry with baseball and college football within Pittsburgh. Despite these difficulties, Rooney never faltered from his pursuit of pro football glory in his city.
ANOTHER HIGHSMITH AND WATT COMBO. TOUCHDOWN STEELERS.
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2023
In 1938, Rooney signed Byron “Whizzer” White as the NFL’s first high-salaried player with a $15,800 contract. The 1942 Steelers improved their record with rookie Bill Dudley leading the league in rushing. With many players away during World War II, Rooney combined the Steelers and Eagles (Phil-Pitt) in 1943 and the Cardinals (Card-Pitt) in 1944. Coach Jock Sutherland guided the team to a shared title in 1947 but was defeated by the Philadelphia Eagles 21-0 in their first playoff game.
From 1957 to 1963, the Steelers enjoyed success with Buddy Parker as their coach and several standout players in key roles such as Bobby Layne (quarterback), Ernie Stautner (defensive tackle) and John Henry Johnson (running back). Their fortunes moved up even further when the AFL-NFL merger took place. The “dynasty years” began to take shape and the team had its everlasting place in Pittsburgh Steelers history. Fast forward to 2005 wild-card season, the Steelers guided by Bill Cowher made a massive statement by becoming the first wild-card team ever to win three successive road games in addition to winning the Super Bowl XL against Seattle Seahawks; propelling them ahead of San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys as they became the third team to possess five Super Bowl wins.
During the 2006 season, Cowher resigned and was replaced by Mike Tomlin, who led the Steelers to their sixth championship as the first team in franchise history to win six championships.