I’ve been thinking about Steelers commercials of the past, ever since one of the regulars at my neighborhood bar revealed that he once starred in a Popeye’s ad with Franco Harris. I haven’t been able to find that online, but Cam Heyward’s cameo in the flag football commercial on Sunday got me chasing down another YouTube rabbit hole.
NFL spotlighting Flag football star Diana Flores: pic.twitter.com/AMIiCjZal0— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 13, 2023
Here are some Lombardi-worthy black and gold moments of advertising.
Ben Sings the Blues - American Idol (2006)
Ben Roethlisberger may have had a better haircut in this SportsCenter bit, but he had to be much more vulnerable here, singing Rupert Holmes acapella on national TV. Ironically, he’s not any worse than some of the contestants I’ve seen before the judges. 13 years later Antonio Brown would actually compete as The Hippo on “The Masked Singer.”
The Bus Takes a Football Leap - Nike (1998)
Jerome Bettis had a funny moment last year with Peyton, Eli, Terry & Victor Cruz for Pepsi & Frito-Lay. He also proved to be a better singer than Ben with this Madden 2003 spot. But Nike has always been the gold standard of great ads, as they proved with this wordless commercial.
Samsonite vs The Pittsburgh Steelers - Samsonite (1977)
The Steelers were in big demand in the dynasty years, starring in spots for everything from Mattel to Uniroyal Tire to Swanson’s Hungry-Man TV dinners. But there’s something extra ridiculous about this ad from Samsonite, which I believe features actors in nameless jerseys, except for Jon Kolb, who is incorrectly wearing 66 instead of 55.
The Secret Origin of Slash - Nike/Footaction (1996)
In 2002, Kordell starred in a “Castaway”-inspired ad for DirecTV. He was also the subject of a Nike spot starring Jerry Stiller as Vince Lombardi. But his Piece de Resistance is this Footaction commercial with Bill Cowher that explains the secret origin of “Slash.” (This isn’t Cowher’s only goofy commercial. Could you ever imagine something like this from Tomlin?)
Troy Flips his Wig - Head & Shoulders (2011-present)
Troy had an inspired spot with LaDainian Tomlinson for Nike (directed by David Fincher). And who could forget Punxsutawney Polamalu for TruTV? But his entire Head & Shoulders campaign has been above the line for more than ten years. The chef’s kiss was when Brett Keisel made a cameo.
Honorable Mention: Cope & Lambert Rage the Rapids - Kennywood (1985)
This isn’t a national ad, but it’s a worthy inclusion. When Kennywood opened their new ride, the Raging Rapids, they turned to Jack Lambert and Myron Cope, who turned out to be the next Laurel & Hardy. Check out these 7 min of behind-the-scenes footage.
Kyle Chrise is the host of the Steel Curtain Network podcast “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout.” New episode drop every Thursday. Check out the latest episode in the player below: