Today, the Pittsburgh Steelers turn 83 years old.
They look pretty good for their age, don’t they?
On July 8th, 1933 Art Rooney – The Chief – officially purchased the team for $2500. A large sum back then, especially in the midst of the Great Depression. They are forgotten years, basically everything before the 70s dynasty has been, but they contain some of the most interesting stories and players in this franchise’s history. We’ve covered several of those before and will continue to do so each year.
Here’s a small excerpt from Dan Rooney’s book, My 75 Years With the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL, that touched on the purchase of the team. They were, until 1940, called the Pittsburgh Pirates, a common effort to capitalize on the namesake of the popular baseball teams.
“Dad had been spending a lot of time with his new footballteam, the NFL ‘Pittsburgh Pirates,’ which he had bought for $2500 in the summer of 1933, about the time of my first birthday. NFL commissioner Joe Carr approached my father because the league saw Pittsburgh as a good expansion opportunity, now that Pennsylvania’s ‘blue laws’ prohibiting Sunday play were about to be repealed. Carr and the NFL owners knew Art Rooney to be the best promoter in Western Pennsylvania. They also appreciated the fact he was a real football man – he understood the sport and would be just the guy to cultivate a fan base in the Pittsburgh market. Dad and Carr met in New York to discuss the terms for buying the franchise.”
Rooney also dispelled the rumor that The Chief was able to buy the team with his racetrack winnings. He points out Art’s best day at the race track occurred in 1937, several years after purchasing the team. But maybe those winnings helped keep the franchise afloat. Back then, the league was barely profitable and the lack of success didn’t help.
From humble beginnings to six rings. It’s an unbelievable story. So celebrate, Steelers’ Nation.