CANTON, OHIO – Fifty years ago this month, the Pittsburgh Steelers changed their narrative from perennial second-tier team to perennial winner and began to establish the franchise as a model of consistency and stability in the National Football League.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will celebrate the golden anniversary of the Steelers’ trajectory-altering year with a new, temporary exhibit titled, “A Legacy Forged in Black & Gold.” Scheduled for public opening at 9 a.m. Jan. 20, the multi-area exhibit marks the first time all six of the franchise’s Vince Lombardi Trophies, six
Super Bowl rings and the Bronze Busts of 27 individuals who contributed to the success of those who wore the iconic black and gold jerseys will be together under one roof.
This exhibit, scheduled to run daily through Feb. 19, will be the first in a series the Hall of Fame will curate over the coming years to honor specific teams.
A tribute to the Cleveland Browns, an organization celebrating anniversaries of its 1964 and 1954 NFL championships and other milestones this year, will be unveiled this spring. “First, we want to thank the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Rooney family for enthusiastically embracing the idea of an exhibit like this in the Hall of Fame and for assisting in making it possible with the loan of the official Vince Lombardi Trophies,” Hall President Jim Porter said. “Knowing that this is the 50th anniversary of the year that changed the franchise forever, it seemed fitting for the Steelers to be the first team honored this way – with many more special exhibits to come as the Hall continues
to look for ways to celebrate the greatest players, coaches, contributors and teams in the game.” In addition to the trophies, rings and busts, the Hall will put on display other memorabilia from the franchise’s 90-year history and has adorned several walls in the museum with Steelers-centric graphics and photos. Several monitors will show team and player highlight films throughout the day.
Similar treatments will be put in place for future teams to be featured. “We encourage every fan of the Steelers to see this once-in-a-lifetime collection of items on display
and to get their pictures taken with the Lombardi Trophies, Super Bowl rings and Bronze Busts,” Porter said. “There has never been this kind of opportunity before.”
From their inception in 1933 through the 1968 season, the Steelers appeared in exactly one playoff game (losing 21-0 to the Eagles in 1947) and finished last in the standings (nine times) more often than they posted a winning record (seven times).
Their turnaround began in 1969 with the hiring of CHUCK NOLL as head coach and drafting of JOE GREENE with the fourth overall pick. One year later, the team added TERRY BRADSHAW and MEL BLOUNT through the draft. Then came JACK HAM in 1971 and FRANCO HARRIS in 1972, when the team reached the playoffs for a second time. Still, it took until 1974 for it all to come together. The Steelers drafted four future Hall of Famers – LYNN SWANN, JACK LAMBERT, JOHN STALLWORTH and MIKE WEBSTER – and signed a fifth in undrafted rookie free agent DONNIE SHELL that year. The result was a 10-3-1 regular season, AFC Central Division title and the team’s first conference championship. The Steelers then beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 for their first Super Bowl title. They would win four in a six-year span.
That history and much more will be celebrated over the exhibit’s run. Guests can see all of the items on display – including the trophies, rings and busts – as part of their regular admission ticket. Other special events, such as “chalk talks” and autograph sessions, will be scheduled over the course of the four weekends from Jan. 26-27 through Feb. 16-17 with Hall of Famers and other Steelers legends in attendance. The Hall of Fame Café will add some Pittsburgh food favorites and beverages to its
regular menu to enhance the atmosphere for Steelers fans. Greene will help unveil the exhibit with a by-invitation-only ribbon-cutting at 3 p.m. Jan. 19.