Steeler's real name is Ralph W. Pulaski, and his rank is that of Army 1st lieutenant O-2. His original rank was that of specialist E-5. Steeler was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Steeler comes from a blue collar middle-class background. He put himself through college on an ROTC scholarship and worked as a heavy equipment operator before enlistment. Graduated top of class from Armor School at Fort Knox, and received special training as part of the Cadre X-AFV Project at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, artillery school at Fort Sill, AFV Desert Exercise at Fort Hood, and the Covert Ops school at Langley. Steeler is proficient with all NATO and Warsaw Pact AFVs, and is a qualified expert with the M-16, M1911A1 Auto Pistol, and the MAC-10.
Steeler was originally a tank commander for the "M.O.B.A.T." tank (Multi-Ordnance Battle Assault Tank). He is young and reckless, and often clashes with authority (including superior officers). He often challenges teammates to physical endurance tasks; he respects people more this way.
Steeler first appeared in the 1983 cartoon G.I. Joe A Real American Hero five part mini-series called "The MASS Device".
In the episode "Worlds Without End" of the on-going 1985 series, Steeler was portrayed as being weary of the G.I. Joe/Cobra struggle, and questioned whether it would really matter if Cobra were to win. In the second part of "Worlds Without End", Steeler was among a group of Joes who visited an alternate version of earth, in which Cobra had already won and G.I. Joe had been all but wiped out. Indeed, the only surviving "Joe" depicted in the episode was the Baroness, who (in that continuity) was a double-agent and the alternate-Steeler's lover. Having discovered that Cobra had killed the alternate Steeler, apparently in a weapons test, Steeler has an epiphany—it did matter whether Cobra won or lost. Steeler, Clutch, and Grunt elect to stay in the alternate reality in order to re-build G.I. Joe. As Steeler never returned from the alternate-reality, and no further stories were set there, Steeler never reappeared in the Sunbow series continuity.