Steelers Rock the League Once Again By Rocking the Bumblebee Unis


Almost exactly three years ago, I published an article on BTSC about the then newly-introduced throwback uniforms. Here is how it began:

In a hard-hitting piece of uniform-related journalism, Phil Hecken of Uni-Watch reveals the questionable historical basis for the “1934” throwbacks. In a patient unravelling of the evidence trail, including a trip to the Pennsylvania State Library in Harrisburg, Hecken reveals the uniforms were first worn not in 1934 but in 1933. 

Hecken’s evidence is based upon viewing the microfilm collection of Pittsburgh newspaper photos of games in 1933 and 1934. According to Hecken, the unis were only worn once in a game, in November of 1933. (They were also worn in a team photo in 1934.) The game was vs. Brooklyn, and the Pittsburgh (football) Pirates were beaten 32-0. Thank heavens I didn’t know this before last Sunday’s game—I would have been even more of a wreck than I was. 

But, shocking as this presumably deliberate misinformation is, the scandal doesn’t stop there. According to Hecken’s evidence, the number blocks actually had a yellow background rather than a white one. Although the Steelers facility displays a jersey purporting to be from 1934 with white number blocks, its authenticity has not been confirmed. Will the deceit never end?

If you like people who are really thorough, click on the link. The article goes into minute detail about the originals.

Needless to say, my article was satirical (or ironic, which sounds more mature but less literary.) I thought it was time to revisit the issue, since our eyes will once again be assaulted by the brilliant coloring of the dubiously authentic ’34 throwbacks.

The Steelers wore the Bumblebees twice in 2012, to mixed reviews, as reported in the Wikipedia Steelers Uniform article (yes, there is one) . In other words, some were critical and others were scathing:

The uniforms have drawn major media attention. USA Today said that the Steelers looked like “bumblebee[s] in a Depression-era chain gang.” Sixty-five percent of respondents to an ESPN poll said they hated the throwback uniforms. NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk blog said the 2012 throwback uniform “ranks among the worst ever fashioned for any NFL team.”

Just for the record, here is what a depression-era chain gang looks like:













Here is the team photo from 1934:













I couldn’t find the team photo from 2012. It has probably been destroyed out of shame. But I found this:
















I wouldn’t say the general public has changed in their views. A website named published an article this September on the six ugliest uniforms worn in the NFL:

If you were tempted to adjust the color on your TV set on one or two Sunday afternoons over the 2014 season, we can’t really blame you. The NFL brought back the throwback uniforms again last year, and while it’s hard to top what the Pittsburgh Steelers were wearing in their 51-34 victory over the Colts all the way back in Week Four, old school jerseys for any team can be tough on a typical human being’s retinas.

Inspired by the Steelers’ threads, here are six horrendous NFL throwback jerseys that we would love to never see worn again. Entries are listed in no particular order, basically because there’s no way to rank which design is the most awful. Let’s just say we have a six-way tie.


No. 1  Pittsburgh Steelers 

This is a look best described as an angry bumblebee fresh out of, well, wherever it’s acceptable to wear knee length tan shorts. A 311 concert? While the Black and Yellow is an integral part of the Steelers aesthetic, we’re not fans of the retro embrace. At least they won, so the (visual) insult came without any sort of injury.

Jamison Hensley wrote in 2013:

It won’t come as a shock to anyone that most people don’t like the Steelers’ “unique” throwback jerseys. Honestly, I thought there would be more people hating on them.

In a SportsNation poll this week that drew 7,578 votes, 65 percent say they hated the black-and-gold horizontally striped threads. I thought it would easily be 80 percent against these uniforms. You’ll be able to get a better look at them Sunday, when the Steelers put them on for the first time since 1934.

You can read the comments, pro and con, in the linked article.

I have to admit the detractors have a point.  Nonetheless, I would venture to say the throwbacks are viewed rather differently than they were in past years, at least by Steeler fans. Why? It’s the record, of course.

For whatever reason the Steelers have generally played very well in those uniforms. They have a 27-12 win over the Washington Redskins in Week 8 of 2012, a 10-13 loss to the Ravens in Week 11, a Week 11 win in 2013 against the Lions (37-27), and the above-mentioned 51-34 win against the Colts in Week 8 of 2014. Maybe the embarrassment makes them extra aggressive. I have no other explanation.

I still wish the pants were black, or almost anything besides beige. Is beige even a color? It seems like the absence of the courage to commit to one.

I did discover an interesting nugget in the same Wiki article while pondering these questions, as follows:

The Steelers are one of a dwindling number of NFL franchises that strictly wears its team color jerseys at home, always opting for black. They are the only ones in the AFC North to practice this.

I guess it’s not often hot enough in Pittsburgh to warrant making the other team roast in their dark-colored jerseys. Furthermore, Mike Tomlin, a man who wears long black sweatpants and a long-sleeved black shirt on even the hottest days at training camp, would have no truck with that sort of weakness.

So here we are in Week 8 of 2015, with the Steelers getting ready to take the field in the one exception they allow to their home blacks. Note that the Steelers are undefeated in the 1934 throwbacks when playing in them in Week 8. Let us sincerely hope it stays that way. After all, the Killer Bees (Ben, Brown, Bryant and Bell) are back together for the first time this season. What more appropriate way to celebrate than to wear the Bumblebees?

If you still have any doubts, just watch this. I think you will agree they look absolutely beautiful:


  • An irritable bumblebee can be a fierce beast. Certainly enough to bring a Bengal to its knees.

    But how painful to think that when these were unveiled, we were still wincing over how the Big Snack would wear stripes. It seems so long ago. I think I’ll miss that team for the rest of my life.

    I agree with you that I wish the pants were black. Or maybe they could lose the socks? Although I like the idea of some locker room attendant/uniform conformity guardian whose job it is to say, “Mr. Harrison? Excuse me, Mr. Harrison, but you really do need to put on your striped socks. Yes, Those ones. The striped ones. Please, Mr. Harrison, please, just put on the striped socks. Okay?”


    Liked by 1 person

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I once hated the bumblebee look, now I embrace it including the tan pants. All hail our stripey heroes.

    Liked by 1 person

  • In our house, we say “That’s funny, I don’t care who you are!”

    Hoping for a big sting for the Bungles.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Unfortunately the offense apparently forgot to put in the stingers. The D certainly didn’t…


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