It’s that time of the year where the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field donning their throwback jerseys, but for many fans, those throwbacks this year will be the ones that they remember the team wearing as their everyday uniforms when they were growing up.
Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns will featured the block-lettered jerseys worn by the Steelers’ championship dynasty teams of the 1970s, which is something that certain fans have been clamoring for them to return to pretty much since they changed to the more rounded numbers that we have come to be familiar with today.
The thing is, for this organization, it’s not just about making that token connection with the past. The Steelers’ ‘legends’ of days gone by are living, breathing beings who are still semi-regular fixtures in and around the facility.
It’s not uncommon to see Mel Blount pay a visit. Rocky Bleier and others were recently around for the latest Ring of Honor induction ceremony a few weeks back. Oh, and Hall of Fame wide receiver John Stallworth just so happens to, you know, own part of the team.
“We get to talk with those guys and hear what made them special, what made those teams special”, second-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt told the team’s website about wearing the new throwback jerseys heading into their next game.
“You see the rings and you can’t help it but want a ring for yourself. Those guys still take a lot of pride in what they did, and we take a lot of pride in being able to carry on that legacy and play for the Steelers. That is what makes this organization so special, the true tradition”.
A lot has changed, of course, between now than then beyond what the jerseys look like. That goes for both inside the organization and out. The game itself has underdone an incremental evolution over the decades, prodded on by rules changes favoring a deep passing game, but even their defense bears a different look with a base 3-4, such that traditional ‘base’ defenses are even standard anymore.
These Steelers may be new to the old jerseys, but they are already acquainted on a number of occasions with the men who wore them and helped fill the trophy case that they walk past every day they are at the team’s facilities.
Pittsburgh does a better job than most teams in keeping up with its past, both for the sake of the current generation of players and for those who came before. That is in fact part of John Mitchell’s new responsibilities now that he is off the field on a full-time basis, and something that Terry Cousin, the Player Engagement Coordinator, is involved in as well.
In Pittsburgh, the past is alive, and on Sunday it will look the part.