Steelers/Eagles Combined Team During World War II: The Story of the Steagles

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In 1943, America was deep in the throes of World War II. In order to keep a sense of normality, President Franklin Roosevelt demanded that all sports continue play.

There was only one problem for the NFL, though: 600 of its players and coaches were deployed and fighting in the war. Many of the teams survived by recruiting retired players or using college players.

But in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney and Philadelphia Eagles owner Burt Bell had another idea. They decided to merge the two rival Pennsylvania teams and thus created the Steagles.

Even with this merger, they were still a bit of a hapless team. Most of the players were left behind to play because they weren't fit for service. They had a receiver who was blind in one eye, a lineman who was partially deaf and a quarterback with bleeding ulcers.

In addition, the two coaches, Greasy Neale and Walt Kiesling, hated each other. The only way they were able to coexist on one team was by dividing up their duties between offense and defense.

If that wasn't hard enough, all players were required to work towards the war effort for 40 hours a week, which didn't leave much time for practice.

But even with all of these obstacles, the Steagles prevailed and ended with a winning season of 5-4-1. This was the first winning season for the Eagles and only the second in franchise history for the Steelers.

After all of hardships that went into being a Steagle, these athletes still came together for the sake of the NFL and their team. It's something we could never imagine happening today, but if they hadn't done it then, maybe there wouldn't be a Steelers or Eagles team now.

 

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Credits

Aimee Denaro, Producer
Jacques del Conte, Editor
Ben Hernstrom, Camera (Pittsburgh)
James Mueller, Camera (Pittsburgh)
Robert Czyzewicz, Camera (Philadelphia)
Patrick Rosen, Camera (Philadelphia)

 

Special Thanks

Ray Didinger
Robert Dvorchak
Brenda Galloway at Temple University Library Archives
Philadelphia Inquirer
Clark Bar, Pittsburgh
Sofitel Philadephia

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