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Have the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers Always Been Rivals?

The rivalry between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers is steeped in Pennsylvania pride, but it hasn't always been the fierce competition we see today. Initially, geographic proximity sowed the seeds of rivalry, yet over time, league realignments and changing schedules have shaped its intensity. What do you think has had the biggest impact on this intrastate rivalry? Continue reading to join the discussion.
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman

Even if you're not much of a football fan, it probably comes as no surprise the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers are rivals. The in-state rivalry dates back to 1933 and is known as the "Battle of Pennsylvania," though the vast majority of their meetings took place before the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Now in different conferences, they are seemingly as far apart as can be, but for a brief time, the Eagles and the Steelers joined forces for a common purpose.

In 1943, at the height of World War II, the two teams actually merged for one season. Both teams had lost numerous players to wartime service – a total of 600 NFL players and coaches joined the armed forces – and were granted approval to combine. Though the team technically adopted the Eagles name (as more of the players were from the Philadelphia roster), they became widely known in the media and by fans as the "Steagles." Neither head coach would accept a demotion, so Philadelphia's Greasy Neale and Pittsburgh's Walt Kiesling shared the job, which unsurprisingly resulted in some conflicts as the two men despised each other.

For one season during WWII, the Eagles and the Steelers merged as the “Steagles” due to a player shortage.
For one season during WWII, the Eagles and the Steelers merged as the “Steagles” due to a player shortage.

Though they didn't qualify for the playoffs, it was a fairly successful season for the Steagles, who finished third in the division with a 5-4-1 record, ahead of the Brooklyn Dodgers but behind the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants. It was actually Philadelphia's first ever winning season, and only the second for Pittsburgh.

Fly, Steagles Fly:

  • At the time, all of the Pittsburgh players had full-time jobs contributing to the war effort by working in defense plants, in addition to their grueling playing schedule.

  • Pittsburgh was open to the idea of continuing the Steagles for the 1944 season, but Philadelphia was not, so the Steelers ultimately joined up with the Chicago Cardinals as "Card-Pitt."

  • Today, the Philadelphia Eagles play in the NFC East, while the Pittsburgh Steelers play in the AFC Central. The inter-conference rivals have played just 12 times since 1970.

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for Sports&Hobbies about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education.
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for Sports&Hobbies about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education.

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Discussion Comments

anon1005499

This was during an era that the NFL was an honorable American sports team---today's NFL is known as the National Felons League.

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    • For one season during WWII, the Eagles and the Steelers merged as the “Steagles” due to a player shortage.
      For one season during WWII, the Eagles and the Steelers merged as the “Steagles” due to a player shortage.