Pittsburgh Steelers Cheerleaders Photos From Preseason

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Just checking to see if you are paying attention.  Of course the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have cheerleaders…not anymore.   They did at one time and they were called the Steelerettes…in fact they were the first NFL team to have cheerleaders.  The group only lasted nine years, due mainly to the owner’s traditional values. By the late ’60’s, other NFL teams were using cheerleaders with skimpy outfits, and this didn’t sit well with the family that owned the Steelers, who subsequently discontinued the squad.

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And here’s an Associated Press article from 2006 highlighting the history of the Steelerettes that was originally posted on ESPN.com.

Steelers first to have cheerleaders, but now don’t see the need

Updated: January 31, 2006, 5:50 PM ET

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — They wore knee-length skirts, bobby sox and hard hats, and couldn’t fraternize with the players. Their pay? One ticket per game.

The Steelerettes were the first females of the gridiron, long before Seattle’s Sea Gals, Oakland’s Raiderettes and the Buffalo Jills. And get this: Pittsburgh had guy cheerleaders, too — the Ingots.

But the NFL’s first rah-rah squad was far from a group of midriff-bearing dancers that root from the sidelines today, make public appearances and — like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders — star in their own reality TV show.

The Steelerettes of the 1960s also didn’t last long — just nine years.

“Other teams started bringing in cheerleaders and it was very different from the kind of wholesome group that we were,” said Patricia Tanner, 58, of Ohio Township, who was a Steelerette from 1965-68. “It seemed like our era had passed and Pittsburgh’s a very traditional town, so I don’t think we would have gone that direction.”

The Steelerettes were started for the 1961 season, a year after the Pirates won the World Series.

The Steelers were having a hard time giving away tickets at Forbes Field. William V. Day, the Steelers’ entertainment coordinator, thought adding cheerleaders to the sidelines might change that. Day, who at the time was vice president of Robert Morris Junior College, also thought it could help the school, which didn’t have a football team of its own.

So he spoke to his good friend and team owner Dan Rooney.

“I said to him one day, ‘You got a team without cheerleaders and I’ve got a college without a team,” Day said.

Day came up with the name Steelerettes, who were all Robert Morris students.

Dianne Rossini, of Uniontown, cheered for the Steelers in 1963 and maintains a Web site dedicated to the group. She said the women were chosen based on their looks, personality, coordination and gymnastic ability.

They also had to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average and take a football test — mostly showing they knew enough about the game to know when to cheer.

Norreen Modery, 61, of Bethel Park, saw the tryouts advertised in the school newspaper and made the team in 1964.

“There were a lot of empty seats but we were out there having a good ol’ time,” said Modery, who remembers the cheerleaders were always positioned on the visitor’s side and occasionally got run over by players who were knocked out-of-bounds.

She left the squad after a year to get married; only single women were allowed to be Steelerettes.

The women performed to live music, and a baton twirler was added in 1962. The team also briefly added male cheerleaders, called the Ingots in homage to the steel mills that were the lifeblood of the city.

But in the late 1960s, the Steelers started talking about plans to build Three Rivers Stadium and changing the direction of the team. Other NFL teams had started using cheerleaders and the skimpy outfits didn’t fit in with the Rooney family’s traditional values, Day said.

“The thinking … was we wanted the emphasis to be on the team — and that doesn’t sound like a momentous decision, but that was what the idea was for all the times that I was with the Steelers,” said Day, who worked with the team for 25 years.

So the Steelerettes did their last pyramid for the 1969 season. The Steelers went on to win four Super Bowls over the next decade, and have sold out every home game since 1972.

Numbering about 60 in all, the Steelerettes had a reunion in 2001 at Heinz Field, and since then regularly meet every few months. Steelerettes memorabilia, including Tanner’s old uniform, are on display at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

Modery said she’s flattered to be a part of NFL history, though that wasn’t her motivation at the time.

“Back then you never thought of anything instead of just enjoying what you were doing,” Modery said.

Tanner said she learned a lot about exercise and discipline from the experience and made lifelong friendships from her days as a Steelerette. She also said she understood why the team scrapped the Steelerettes.

“All you have to do is look at a Steelers pep rally,” Tanner said. “They don’t seem to need any coaching and encouragement.”

Area Woman Part Of Steelerettes Tribute Before Game Against Bengals On Sunday Night

By Konstantine Fekos
Meadville Tribune

Carolyn Crandall (far right) waves during a pre-game ceremony at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Crandall, then Peterson, was part of the 1968-69 Steelerettes squad

Carolyn Crandall (far right) waves during a pre-game ceremony at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Crandall, then Peterson, was part of the 1968-69 Steelerettes squad

Action on the field, bright stadium lights and fellowship from the Rah-Rah Sisterhood all made Conneautville’s Carolyn Crandall feel like a celebrity at Heinz Field when she was recognized as an alumna of what’s said to be the NFL’s first cheerleading squad Sunday night. 

“I just felt like I was on top of the world,” she said. “It was fabulous.”

Crandall was acknowledged with about 15 of the former Steelerettes, the collegiate cheerleaders who spurred the team on during its 1960s seasons.

“They were probably the first NFL cheerleaders,” Crandall said. “They were girls who attended Robert Morris (School of Business) at the time and went to all of the home games.”

The Steelerettes, commissioned by then-owner Art Rooney Sr., predated the Terrible Towel and Three Rivers Stadium, when the Steelers shared Forbes Field and University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt Stadium.

Sunday’s homecoming celebration brought former Steelerettes back on the field to lead the Terrible Towel Twirl pregame before the Steelers hosted the Cincinnati Bengals.

The ladies were joined by renowned former Steelers Franco Harris and Mel Blount, who served as honorary team captains.

The festivities are part of the larger NFL Homecoming initiative, which organizes efforts to reconnect football legends with their former teams and current fans.

“It was entirely an experience I will never forget,” Crandall said. “A once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Crandall, a Meadville High School and Robert Morris graduate, now working as a sales order processor and logistics coordinator for Ainsworth Pet Nutrition in Meadville, looks back on her days with the Steelerettes quite fondly.

She recalled squad tryouts involving a considerable amount of Robert Morris students, all hoping to be one of the select few to cheer alongside the 1960s Steelers.

“You had to compete with the other girls for a spot; there were quite a few trying out,” she said. “It was a nice accomplishment, I felt, to be selected as one of them.”

Crandall’s mother would drive her down to Pittsburgh twice a week during the summer before her college career to practice choreographed routines with the Steelerettes, she recalled.

“I was a varsity cheerleader for four years at Meadville High School, so it was right up my alley,” Crandall said. “Cheerleading was huge back in those days. You were either a cheerleader or a baton twirler or something of that nature.”

Crandall cheered for the 1968-69 season and still has the Steelerettes squad jacket to prove it.

“I remember being down on the field and feeling so tiny and small; when these guys would run by you, they’d look enormous,” she said. “When you heard the tackle and how they hit, you felt lucky to be standing back. Those guys were like freight trains.”

Although her cheerleading career came to a close during the dry spell before the Steelers’ successful 1970 season, Crandall nonetheless enjoyed her days with the Steelerettes and attends reunion functions when she can.

“When I was younger it was a big deal,” she said. “My mom and dad both saw me on TV a couple times. It was a thrill for them to see me there.”

Other NFL teams must’ve been thrilled as well, because the idea of cheer squads began to take off in the 1970s, but without the wholesome collegiate image the Steelerettes projected, Crandall said.

“Cheerleaders back then were cheerleaders,” she said. “Bobby socks, saddle shoes, vests and sweaters or whatever with pom-poms and skirts past the knee. Now they wear these skimpy outfits.”

The traditional Steelerette look is still on display by uniform at the Heinz History Center.

As Robert Morris evolved over the years from a two-year school into a full-fledged university, interest in national teams supposedly waned and cheerleaders began accompanying new collegiate teams onto school fields and basketball courts.

By eventual joint decision between the Rooneys and RMU, the 1969-70 season would be the last time the Steelerettes entertained a crowd as an official NFL squad, though their sisterhood lives on through the women who still keep in touch today.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, the Steelers never had cheerleaders,’” Crandall said. “I just chuckle and say that we were the first.”

Steelers go retro

The Steelers fired up the Way-Back machine last month and took the field in the 80th anniversary bumblee jerseys. The jerseys, originally worn in 1934 were…let’s just call a spade a spade…they were ugly. Fugly, even. But if you ask me, that’s sort of the point of the whole thing. Why go vintage if you can’t gaze upon the jerseys in open-mouthed incredulity that people ever wore outfits like that for real? After all, if the vintage stuff was cool, they’d still be wearing it today.

It’s supposed to look crazy. At least this guy gets it. Isaac and I may be the only people who follow the mantra “if something is worth doing, it’s worth over doing.” Even if thousands and thousands of people will see you, your image will be captured for all time, and people you thought were friends will point and laugh.

Then again, Isaac sustained a concussion yesterday, so he might not be as into the stripes as he was before the game. Hey, feel better, big guy!

For me, the high point of the game was the throwback Steelerettes. Or at least it would have been, had the Steelerettes not been 86ed some forty years ago. I like to think that if the Steelerettes were still with us, they would get into the spirit of things. And maybe halftime would’ve gone a little bit like this:

(Actually those are unfortunate winter uniforms worn by the Redskinettes in 1983. They appeared for one season only, for reasons that are glaringly obvious.)

Cheerleader-less Super Bowl leads to Steeltown revelations

By Heather Svokos
DFW.com
Tuesday, Feb. 01, 2011

Here we are, in the homeland of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, about to wage a Super Bowl battle … without the aid of cheerleaders.

Seems like some kind of cruel, cosmic joke, right?

But the Packers and the Steelers are among six of the NFL’s 32 teams that don’t have official cheerleaders. (The others: the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and New York Giants. For the record, the Packers do have a non-pro cheer squad, courtesy of St. Norbert College and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay — but they’re not generally invited to road games, and they weren’t invited to this year’s Super Bowl.)

As a native Pittsburgher, this revelation got me to thinking: Why no cheerleaders?

I dismissed the cold-weather-state rationale once I learned that the Minnesota Vikings have cheerleaders. (Brrrr, ladies!)

So, is it because the city of my birth is some hidden bastion of feminism? (Sorry, I fell off my chair laughing.)

More likely is the blue-collar factor: A fancy city like Dallas may have embraced the razzle-dazzle, but towns like Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Milwaukee have a no-nonsense reputation. It’s all about the ugly, bone-crunching football. My friend and fellow ‘Burgher Leslie Rubinkowski validated my theory: “It’s the yinzer ethic — the cheering happens after you win the game. Before that, you kick ass.”

(For you non-Terrible Towel-wavers: “Yinzer” is a nickname for someone from Pittsburgh, derived from our regional colloquialism “yinz.” As in: “Yinz ready to order?” It’s like “y’all,” minus the charm.)

But I still wanted to find out a little more, and my mission for answers took me on a little history quest — directly to a woman named Dianne Feazell Rossini, who was, in fact, a cheerleader for the Steelers in 1963. So they did once have a squad, aptly namely the Steelerettes. Rossini now lives and works in Uniontown, Pa. — the town where I grew up — and runs a website dedicated to the story of the Steelerettes (www.steelerettes.com).

As I plumbed for insights from her, we struck up a delightful correspondence.

We’re used to today’s pro sports cheerleaders — Cowboys Cheerleaders, Laker Girls — being industries and brands unto themselves, but back in the early ’60s, when the Steelerettes first formed, they were recruited from nearby schools. The Steelerettes came from Robert Morris Junior College. A look at Rossini’s website shows that the first squad, in 1961, wore hard hats and gold suspendered jumpers with skirts that hit below the knee.

Not exactly va-va-va-voom attire. But at the time, the notion of cheerleaders was revolutionary — and so not welcome by the team’s conservative owner, Art Rooney, known as “the Chief.”

“According to the Chief, women didn’t belong on a football field — period!” Rossini told me.

The demise of the Steelerettes came in 1969, when the squad’s captain approached Rooney and asked if they could update their outmoded look. His response was to have them fired, according to a 2007 story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“The older I get, the more I agree with the Chief,” Rossini says. “For a long time I wished the Steelerettes had continued on to the glory days of the ’70s. How exciting that would have been. My thoughts now are that most people pay to see a football game — not ogle a bunch of girls. I don’t think they really add anything to the game, except maybe provide something to watch when your team is losing badly.”

That said, she’s part of a sorority, and she has warm feelings about her sisters from then and now.

“By the time the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were born [in 1972], times had changed and their uniforms were no longer considered shocking,” she notes. “We had to beg, cry and cajole to get the front office to allow our skirts to be above our knees. Two totally different eras. I am very proud to have been a Steelerette, and we all agree it’s kind of nice to belong to this exclusive club. We are all there was and all there will ever be.”

Rossini thinks as long as the Rooney family has the reins, the Steelers will stay cheerleaderless. She paraphrased Art Rooney’s son Dan: “The Steelers have the best and most football-savvy fans in the world, and they don’t need anyone telling them when to cheer.”

Sure, you could argue that cheerleaders enhance a franchise and boost a city’s commerce — and you’d be right. But at this moment in American history, when life is still rocky for so many, it’s a tribute to the scrappy places like Pittsburgh and Green Bay when a tough-minded, no-frills approach can produce a real winner.

Another silver lining in this cheerleaderless Super Bowl: It led me to discover a dusty but lovely piece in the patchwork of my hometown heritage. And though I haven’t been an ardent football fan for decades, Dianne Rossini’s tale stirred my latent Steeler pride.

Are yinz ready for some football?

This is a bad weekend for NFL cheerleaders

By Tom Weir
USA Today
Jan 21, 2011

There has been much ado this week about three of the NFL’s oldest and most storied teams still being alive in the playoffs. But it also might be said that the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers are three of the NFL’s most stodgy teams, since they don’t have cheerleaders.

How can this be? Aren’t all football teams supposed to have cheerleaders? Isn’t there something in the rules about that?

At one time, all three of those teams had official cheerleading squads. For aficionados of high-kicking sideline crews, here’s why they went away:

Pittsburgh: The Steelers had their Steelerettes from 1961-1970, but shut them down when the team moved into Three Rivers Stadium. One could say they’ve been replaced the the Terrible Towel.

si-1960s-steelers

The women were recruited from Robert Morris University (then a JC), and had to have at least a 2.0 GPA. You can find some vintage photos at Steelerettes.com.

FanNation.com did a story on them awhile back, and had this quote from original Steelerette Eleanor Lineman Lewis: “The first year, we wore hard helmets as part of our uniform. We started to look more and more like wholesome cheerleaders as time went on.”

Chicago: The Honey Bears were in business from 1976-85, but were axed after the McCaskey family took the helm and decided cheerleaders didn’t fit the team’s rugged image.

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Some suggest the Honey Bears’ demise is why the Bears haven’t won a Super since 1985, but that chatter has never caught on the way the Cubs’ various curses have.

Their final performance was to Prince’s Baby, I’m a Star, when the ’85 Bears beat New England at the Super Bowl.

Green Bay: Technically, the Packers still have cheerleaders, but they’re an unofficial group of rotating loaners from either the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay or St. Norbert College.

FootballBabble.com says the Packers had cheerleaders as far back as 1931, recruited from high schools. Then hard-nosed Vince Lombardi, of all people, asked that a professional squad be organized. They were called the Golden Girls Cheerleaders, an apparent homage to Packer’s star Paul Hornung, who was known as “The Golden Boy.”

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The Golden Girls were drawn from a dance studio, and included some national champions in baton twirling. They are in the Packers Hall of Fame, but the team did away with cheerleaders in 1988, after a TV station poll found fans were split 50-50 on whether they were needed.

SI Gallery Update – Throwback Edition

This week, SportsIllustrated.com takes us back to the 60s. Click here.]

The young lady below is a cheerleader for the Denver Broncos. I can scarce believe my eyes – the DBC rocked the blue top and white, fringed, star-spangled vest before the Cowboys Cheerleaders did it? Who knew?
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