Labriola On

Labriola on 'triangles,' celebrations, fashion

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Ready or not, here it comes:

  • With the Steelers likely in the market for a different throwback jersey for the 2018 season, maybe it's time to tell the tale of one of the most unique designs in recent franchise history.
  • In the late 1960s, the Green Bay Packers were the National Football League's dominant team. They had won championships in 1961, 1962, 1965 and 1966, and they had played for the title in 1960. In that respect, every NFL team wanted to be like the Packers.
  • Dan Rooney might have wanted the Steelers to win like the Packers, but he didn't necessarily want them to look like the Green Bay Packers.
  • Back in that era of the 1960s, Steelers players had an executive committee that would meet with ownership about issues of concern to them. At that time, one of the issues was the uniform. John Campbell, a linebacker going into his second season with the team in 1966, was on the executive committee and he was the one who asked Dan Rooney to do something about the uniform.
  • Mindful of how many teams were morphing into Packers look-a-likes, Dan Rooney decided to make an attempt at something distinctive. That also was the time when the City of Pittsburgh was trying to remake its image, trying to get away from the perception of a dirty, smoky city. One of the areas of the city being refurbished was Downtown, called the Golden Triangle because that was the shape of the land created by the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers flowing into the Ohio River.
  • Dan Rooney decided to incorporate this unique bit of the city's geography into the Steelers new uniforms, and that's how the triangle design came to be a part of the jersey. The triangle was always gold, with the rest of the home jersey being black with white numbers and the road jersey being white with black numbers.
  • But if the intent of linking the team to its city was a nice idea, the practical execution of it didn't go as smoothly.
  • For example, there was the washing of the uniforms. In 1966, the Steelers preseason finale was against the Cleveland Browns in Birmingham, Ala., and they were to wear the black jerseys with the gold triangles, because the Browns always preferred to wear their white jerseys. But in laundering the Steelers' jerseys, the black bled into the gold triangles and created an aesthetic mess.
  • And then, not everyone was able to make the connection between the Steelers' jerseys and Pittsburgh's geography. Midway through the 1966 season, the Steelers were set to play a game against the Cowboys in Dallas on Oct. 30. Shortly before kickoff, Dan Rooney appeared on the Cowboys pregame radio show where he was asked, "Are your wearing those uniforms because tomorrow is Halloween?"
  • And so following the 1967 season, the Steelers "retired" their golden triangle jerseys, but there is the possibility the throwback movement gives them a second life.
  • Maybe you consider Cam Newton a whiner, or maybe not, but whichever side you take on that one, the NFL's response to what he was whining about does nothing to create confidence in the competence of its officials.
  • It all came to a head following Carolina's win over Arizona last Sunday, a game in which Newton was hit in the lower leg by an on-rushing Calais Campbell and no penalty was called. In his postgame presser, Newton said he planned on seeking an audience with Commissioner Roger Goodell to complain about the non-call.
  • According to a report on Pro Football Talk, the NFL's response was to point out that it had determined that "only" three roughing the passer calls have been missed on Newton since the start of the 2013 season. That Newton seemingly took that many hits to the head during the Thursday night regular season opener in Denver on Sept. 8 contradicts that notion, but then there was also this item included in the Pro Football Talk Report: "Eleven other quarterbacks, by the league's count, have had more missed roughing calls: Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Geno Smith, Josh McCown, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Case Keenum, and Ryan Tannehill."
  • I can imagine the conversation between the league office and Panthers owner Jerry Richardson: It's OK, Mr. Richardson, because we only missed three roughing the passer calls on the reigning MVP, and while we understand he's the face of your franchise and a guy you signed to a five-year, $103.8 million contract, there are in fact 11 other quarterbacks who have had more missed roughing-the-passer calls than Cam Newton over that same span. See? Nothing to worry about.
  • Besides, how can NFL officials be expected to protect guys who play the sport's marquee position when they've been charged with protecting the moral fiber of our civilization by penalizing excessive or suggestive touchdown celebrations, often at the exact same moment in time when multiple high-definition jumbotrons inside the stadium are showing excessive and suggestive "dance routines" by the home team's cheerleaders as they celebrate the same touchdown.
  • Not to be cynical.
  • And in case you happen to have missed any of the weekend's touchdown celebrations, the NFL kindly has packaged video of all of them and made them available via "NFL Now." In an email received earlier this week, NFL Now is presented this way: "GET CAUGHT UP. GET PUMPED FOR GAMEDAY. Get the scoop for Fantasy. Do it all, anytime, wherever you are with NFL Now."
  • A couple of the videos featured in the NFL Now email promotion were titled "Celebration Station: The Best Celebrations," and "Fashion Po-Po: Who's Wearing What." Just check out the videos on NFL.com for your up-to-date Celebration and Fashion news.
  • Again, not to be cynical.
  • When Coach Mike Tomlin cited an inability to get off blocks as a reason why the team's run defense had been gashed recently, it was reminiscent of a classic Chuck Noll line during a postgame presser following a 1981 win over the Cleveland Browns. Leading up to that game, Noll had said the plan was to rest veteran L.C. Greenwood against Cleveland as much as possible because of his ailing knee, and that rookie defensive end John Goodman would be stepping into the lineup in Greenwood's place.
  • It wasn't long into that game against the Browns before Greenwood came off the sideline and trotted into the defensive huddle, with Goodman then coming to the sideline where he stayed for much of the rest of the afternoon.
  • After the game, a reporter hit Noll with, "You had said you wanted to rest L.C. Greenwood because of his knee. So why did you take Goodman out so early in the game?"
  • With a straight face, and with no emotion in his voice whatsoever, Noll looked at the reporter and replied, "Because he was being blocked."
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