Friday morning at the Rooney Complex, I had one mission: Ask as many Steelers players as I could a simple question.
Is it "black and gold" or "black and yellow"?
Zach Banner started it. Back in late August after final roster cuts, Banner tweeted this:
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) August 31, 2019
And he paid for it, getting roasted by online commenters aplenty for soiling the "black and gold" tradition.
Banner chuckled when I posed the question, then shared his thoughts.
"Oh, you saw the tweet? I learned. I learned quick," Banner was telling me at his locker before practice.
Banner even ran a poll following that original tweet seeking clarification.
Lol ok Steeler fans, inform me with a vote. Is it Black&Yellow or Black&Gold? I realized after my last tweet I MAYBE made a mistake. At USC it’s Cardinal&Gold. You say Yellow&Red or anything else you’re banished and may be shot! Lol is Wiz Khalifa the new Wikipedia?
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) August 31, 2019
"So, yeah, it's 'black and gold' now," Banner continued. "But c'mon, I grew up on the West Coast, obviously wasn't a Steelers fan. I didn't know. And what was the big song when I was growing up?"
He's talking, of course, about Wiz Khalifa's 2010-11 hit "Black and Yellow." Khalifa, who was born in North Dakota but settled in Pittsburgh as a pre-teen and attended Taylor Allderdice High School, popularized the "black and yellow" movement.
Steelers traditionalists, of course, will tell you they're wrong. And they'll do so passionately.
That second one there was a tweet replying to an article I posted Thursday evening on newly acquired tight end Nick Vannett. Speaking with reporters after Thursday's practice at the Rooney Complex, Vannett said the "black and yellow just hits different," showing his admiration for the history of the Steelers organization.
Shoo, but he kicked the hornet's nest in opting for "yellow" instead of "gold" there. The comments and tweets came flooding in, and that prompted my trek this morning around the locker room. I landed on Terrell Edmunds next, another young player, just 22 years old and in his second year in the league. I know what I expected him to say.
"Oh, man, come on," Edmunds said with a laugh as he kicked back in his chair. "You're hitting me with this one early in the morning?"
I chuckled with him, explaining that I was only seeking clarification. A survey, if you will. It seems like nobody can crack this code. So which is it?
"When I came here, I was saying 'black and yellow' but people were destroying me for it," Edmunds said. "I say 'black and gold now.' I'm gonna go with that."
I give him a skeptical look. He didn't seem sold with his own answer, so I point to his helmet. The sides are black, obviously, but that stripe down the middle?
"I just say 'black and gold' now," he repeats with another laugh.
The receivers, however, didn't hesitate when posed with the question. First, I checked with Diontae Johnson and James Washington, seated next to each other at their stalls.
"Oh, black and gold," Johnson fired back.
I looked at Washington.
"Black and gold. Yeah. No doubt," he replied.
Ditto for Ryan Switzer.
"It's black and gold," he said. "Maybe it's just the history of it, but it's definitely black and gold."
Rookie Isaiah Buggs joined the receivers in camp "black and gold," again referencing the history of the phrase.
"It just is," he told me.
Mark Barron didn't struggle with the question, either. Only he went the other direction. Barron smiled and tapped the helmet hanging above his locker.
"Look at it," Barron said. "It's black and yellow, man."
And even Banner, who learned his lesson earlier this year, still couldn't help but chuckle before we ended our quick chat. Like I did with Edmunds, and as Barron did on his own, I used the helmet hanging at his locker as a point of reference.
I mean, you say "black and gold," but is it, Mr. Banner?
"C'mon, man," Banner said, narrowing his eyes and giving a sly nod before pulling on his shirt and heading to the practice field.
This is a genuinely fun discussion. The players all had a laugh with it, and the ones who have already felt the heat for slipping up were careful to side with team "black and gold." You don't mess with history in Pittsburgh. You just don't. And everything everywhere that preserves this history and the history of the team will tell you it's "black and gold."
But guess what?
That color is freaking yellow. When the Steelers change their uniform colors, I'll start saying "black and gold." If you look up the hex code for the Steelers' official logo, you'll find results telling you it's either "American Yellow," "Mikado Yellow," "Dark Tangerine" or "Golden Yellow." Even "golden" modifies "yellow" there. "Yellow" is still the primary color.
Sorry, Steeler Nation. This jersey right here, a Drew Brees New Orleans Saints home jersey, is black and gold.
The one you see at Heinz Field is black and yellow.
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