Pittsburgh: City of Champions

There's a reason for this sports-obsessed city's iconic nickname.

By Google Arts & Culture

By Pittsburgh sports author and historian Jim O'Brien

Time Covers - The 70S (1975-12-08)LIFE Photo Collection

Pittsburgh became known as “The City of Champions”...

for its unparalleled parade of sports successes in the decade of the ‘70s.

Cosell, Howard (1980/1990)LIFE Photo Collection

In 1982, none other than network broadcaster Howard Cosell gave the city its nickname while emceeing the Steelers’ 50 Seasons Dinner — in front of 2,500 guests at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

By George SilkLIFE Photo Collection

American Pro Football

The name “City of Champions” has stayed with the city ever since, even during some pretty poor seasons by its pro and college teams. 

Pro Football Hall of Fame Lineup from left to right by Jim O'Brien

The nickname was reaffirmed in August 2021 when six men associated with the Pittsburgh Steelers were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in a single weekend in Canton, Ohio.

Texas Football (1956-10) by Joe ScherschelLIFE Photo Collection

Pittsburgh fans dominated the scene at Benson Stadium in Canton, twirling their “Terrible Towels” and turning the place into the usual frenzied scene at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

“This was a great week for Pittsburgh football,” said Art Rooney II, the president and primary owner of the Steelers.  

Collecting card:Troy Palamalu Collecting card:Troy Palamalu (2007) by Upper DeckThe Strong National Museum of Play

Coach Bill Cower, super scout Bill Nunn, safety Troy Polamalu, tackle Alan Faneca, safety Donnie Shell and, along with Jimbo Covert of the Chicago Bears and the University of Pittsburgh all drew appreciative roars from the crowd.

Super Bowl X Program (Sunday, January 18, 1976)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

The Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years during the ‘70s, and two more later on.  They were the first team to win back-to-back titles and they did it twice.

Bing Crosby And The Pittsburgh Pirates (1948-03) by Loomis DeanLIFE Photo Collection


The Pirates won two World Series in that same decade, in 1971 and 1979.

The Pirates had a 50th year anniversary reunion of that 1971 team in the summer of 2021, offering long-suffering Pirates fans an opportunity to remember when the Pirates were one of the proudest teams in Major League Baseball.

John Henry Johnson and Tony Dorsett by Jim O'Brien

College Football

The University of Pittsburgh football team won the national championship in 1976, led by Coach Johnny Majors and Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett.  The Panthers posted a 12-0 record, capping the season with a Sugar Bowl triumph over Georgia.

“Tony Dorsett changed a program more than any other player in the history of college football,” said Majors, who won Coach of the Year honors during his first head coaching tenure at Pitt. 

His second go-round wasn’t as successful, and all of the Pittsburgh teams have endured their ups and downs.

Mario Lemieux on ice his rookie season (1984)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Ice Hockey

No more than the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins won the iconic Stanley Cup in 1991, 1992, 2009, 2016 and 2017... but were eliminated in the first round during the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2020 and 2021.

Pittsburgh Steelers by Jim O'Brien

Pittsburgh Proud

The Pirates, Penguins and Steelers all wear black, gold and white uniforms: and they all take pride in hailing from The City of Champions.

Credits: All media
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