The Steelerettes, the Pittsburgh Steelers Official Cheerleaders, graced the home games of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1961 to 1969. Although their history is short, it is a proud heritage to have been part of the first NFL sponsored cheerleading squad.
The History of the Pittsburgh Steelers Official Cheerleaders
It was 1961 and the talk of the town was baseball. The Pirates had just won the 1960 world series on a once in a lifetime play. The Steelers were a small time team with little hope of winning a championship. However, according to the Pittsburgh Steelers Official Cheerleaders site, Steelerettes.com, Mr. William Day, the entertainment director of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was also the Vice-President of Robert Morris Junior College. He had this idea to recruit cheerleaders from the junior college and thus were born the Steelerettes.
Unlike the professional NFL cheerleaders of today, the Steelerettes were not formed for the purpose of promotional events or a community outreach arm of the Steelers organization. Instead, their job was to cheer their team onto victory. Of course, the fans loved the Steelerettes ,and they slowly gained notoriety.
The Trademark Pyramid
The Steelerettes signature stunt was a ten-person pyramid. Unlike the pyramids of today's cheerleading squads, this one was a smaller tabletop pyramid with several levels beginning with four girls on the bottom, three in the middle, two on the next level up, and then the final girl on top. To disassemble the pyramid, the girls would do a back flip, cartwheel and then end in splits in the formation of a V on the field. The Steelerettes became well known for their pyramid, so much so that every squad of girls from 1965 to 1969 learned to do it.
The End of the Steelerettes
Unfortunately, 1969 was the Steelerette's last year. There were several factors that led to their disbanding. First, the last winning season for the Pittsburgh Steelers had been in 1963. Secondly, Robert Morris Junior College had grown so much so that it had its own football and cheerleading squads, and students there were more interested in participating in school sponsored events. Deciding that the look and purpose of the Steelerettes was outdated, the squad became history. This was too bad inlight of the fact that the 1970s became the Steelers' finest decade.
Interesting Facts About the Steelerettes
- The Pittsburgh Steelerettes were the first official NFL sponsored cheerleading squad.
- The Steelerette Strutter, Carole Sematic, was the first baton twirler to not only perform with the Steelerettes but to perform in the NFL.
- The Ignots were an all male group of men who helped the girls with routines and used to light a cannon after every touchdown. The cannon "mysteriously disappeared" after one game when it got a little to close to one of the players.
- Hard hats were part of the cheerleaders' first uniform. They were dropped the following year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Today: Public Relations and Community Outreach
Most football cheerleading squads today use cheerleading as an effective means of public relations. Cheerleaders for professional football teams make public appearances, volunteer and represent the organization at public events; all in addition to performing at home games. It's interesting to note that the Pittsburgh Steelers have no PR arm; consequently, the players' themselves make appearances and do community outreach. The Steelers still manage to do quite a bit of community service in their off season. Their charitable works include:
- All Pro Dad
- The American Respiratory Alliance
- The Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania
- Cancer Caring Center
- The Children's Hospital
- Central Bank Annual Blood Drive
In addition, they run a youth football clinic and volunteer for many other worthy organizations. Players commit to volunteering as representatives of the Steelers organization when they sign their contracts.
The cheerleaders of yesteryear are definitely a bygone era. With skirts to their knees and super sized pom pons, they cheered and performed their way into the hearts of fans who came to see the Steelers. It is thought that they increased crowds significantly and drew more attention to the Steelers as attendance at games continued to hold steady despite the Steelers' losing record from 1964 to 1969.