After weeks of speculation and great anticipation, Nike revealed its 2012 line of NFL jerseys today in Brooklyn, NY. The line officially goes on sale during the weekend of the NFL Draft, which takes place April 26-28, 2012.
Among those duds that saw the least amount of change, the Pittsburgh Steelers new uniforms include only subtle tweaks.
First, and foremost, the owners had final say on any official aesthetic changes, and proposed updates to jersey designs (which few teams requested) had to be NFL approved and fall within standard league guidelines.
Additionally, most fans were wise enough to already be anticipating a practical mirror-image product, holding true to the striking look that has served the franchise well for many years. For teams so steeped in tradition, odds of change were already minimal, despite the wildest dreams of creative graphic designers.
While the Seattle Seahawks jerseys showcased the most radical transformation, per changes requested by the team itself, the bulk of updates for other squads included the list of improvements boasted by the new line, labeled "The Nike Elite 51."
Functional changes are supposed to make the jersey stronger (up to 50%) and lighter, revolving around lighter fabrics, a more contoured fit and four-way stretch materials, and a list of other technological advancements that can be seen here, and which are outlined below (from Nike website):
- LIGHTER - The Nike jersey and pant, wet or dry are lighter than previous versions
- ZONED MESH VENTILATION – Provides cooling zones for optimal thermoregulation
- ZONED STRENGTH - High tenacity, stretch material, for lightweight lockdown strength.
- CUT FOR MOBILITY – Four-way stretch, hydrophobic materials enable range of motion wet or dry.
- STRETCH TWILL NUMBERS – Four-way stretch even on numbering system
- CUSTOMIZABLE BASELAYER PADDING – Nike Pro Hyperstrong baselayer with integrated lightweight, Deflex padding offering customizable flexible protection.
- DEFLEX PADDING - Lightweight, flexible impact protection integrated into top “hit zone” areas
- ALUMINUM D-RING BELT - Aircraft-grade aluminum D-ring belt reduces weight.
Let's take a closer look at the Pittsburgh Steelers new garments.
Along with the new jerseys, Nike unveiled the entire look- from head to toe- for the 32 NFL teams.
Included was a sleek new design for players who choose to wear gloves. The new gloves feature a portion of the team's logo about the palms, and they can thus be crossed together, as per the picture above, to reveal the full logo.
While such a radical design will surely get mixed reviews, I feel the look has a great modernness, and I can already picture receivers raising their hands above their heads to reveal the logo after critical scores.
So, will such a celebration become a new fad? Or, will the glove design become tired before such player reactions ever take off?
The following description comes directly from Nike:
The Pittsburgh Steelers have chosen to take full innovation minus Flywire technology in the neckline in order to stay true to their design aesthetic.
The Baltimore Ravens new jersey is shown above to give a visual of the new Flywire collar being referred to above.
The new collar design, which Nike claims provides a "lockdown" seal with shoulder pads and a lighter, less bulky feel around the neck and shoulders, was refused by nine NFL teams.
Included in that decision is the Steelers, who chose to forfeit the option in helping to keep with their traditional look.
The pant design stays the same, except for the popular Nike "swoosh" seen in place of the former Reebok logo.
The only mild variations include enhanced ventilation along the pants stripe, which can be seen in the photograph, and a lighter, more functional belt tie.
In addition to the pants leg, ventilation can be seen atop the jersey as well, about the name on the back and along the shoulders in the rear. It's a mild change to the garment, but does not alter the aesthetic appearance on either the pants or shirt.
Of note, both the jersey and pants are water resistant.
At first glance, one would likely not notice the slight (very slight) change along the shoulders and sleeve, aside from the obvious brand update: the Nike "swoosh."
To be honest, I've analyzed the sleeve time and again, and I can barely see the slightly altered "sleeve design," though the alignment of the stripe design seems a bit more condensed and slightly more bold. But, in all honesty, my brain could be playing tricks on me.
A functional change, per Nike, is "sleeve articulation," a feature that allows more free range of motion.
Apparently, the design of player numbers is slightly altered on the jersey as well.
At a glance, one can barely tell any alterations, but the design is a bit more "sleek" and slim, and the number is a bit smaller and condensed now than it was on the Reebok jerseys.
Around the web, fan reviews of the jerseys, specifically the slightly tweaked number design, is mixed.
In 1997, Nike was chosen to design and manufacture Steelers apparel and jerseys, and the number design looks very reminiscent to that era. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was exactly the same.
Personally, I was always a fan of the of the old jerseys with block lettering, but it's a minor qualm.
When I first saw the full model design of the Steelers' 2012 look, I noticed two things:
1) The jersey is only slightly altered, if at all.
2) Did L.C. Greenwood pick out the shoes?
Gold dominates the new kicks, which I believe are very sleek. It is reminiscent of the 1970's, whenever the Steel Curtain's own L.C. Greenwood wore his bright yellow cleats, standing out from the crowd of humanity on every play.
Well, L.C., I suppose this one's for you!
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
The classic saying was truly honored, and Nike has done a nice job of keeping the essence of Pittsburgh's tried and true uniforms.
Black and Gold is big and bold, and the jersey has stood the test of time as one of the NFL's best.
With new fabrics and an "improved" physical design, it remains to be seen (or, should I say, felt?) how comfortable the new jerseys will be for players- and even the fans.
However, just like the colors of "Black and Gold" are a constant in the "City of Champions," keeping the look of the Pittsburgh Steelers the same as it ever was is certainly not a bad thing.
If anything, minor changes are barely noticeable, and one of the NFL's hottest selling and most storied looks is staying intact.
To that, I say to Nike, "well-done."
I'd still love that block numbers design, though...
FINAL GRADE: A-