I’m a big pro football fan and a minor-league history buff, so I knew this but hadn’t thought of it until I heard someone bring it up on sports radio the other day.
If the Pittsbugh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens today and go to the Super Bowl, they will be playing a team that was once, in a fashion, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 1943, the NFL rosters were decimated by the draft for World War II. In order to have a season, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers merged:
Officially the team was known simply as the Eagles (without a city designation), the Eagles-Steelers, or the Steelers-Eagles. …However, the official NFL record book refers to the team as “Phil-Pitt.”
No one calls them any of those things. NFL fans refer to the team as “The Steagles,” truly one of the greatest monikers in sports history.
(The relationship between the two teams goes even deeper than that–there was also a strange and complicated occurrence in 1940, where the Steelers moved to Philadelphia and the Eagles moved to Pittsburgh, whereupon the Steelers were renamed the Eagles and the Eagles were renamed the Steelers. While the NFL considers both the Eagles and the Steelers to be entities that go back uninterrupted to 1933 (the Steelers originally as the Pirates), in reality the current Eagles are the former Steelers and vice versa.)
The following year, the Steelers again merged with another team, this time the Chicago Cardinals. The team was officially called “Card-Pitt” but was commonly referred to as “The Carpets.” The Doormats would have been more like it–they lost all ten games they played. From Wikipedia:
How bad were they?
- Card-Pitt punters averaged just 32.7 yards per kick, an NFL record that still stands today
- The team was 0-2 in field goals.
- Conway Baker missed 4 of his 15 extra point tries.
- Card-Pitt completed only 31 percent of their passes, resulting in just 8 touchdowns. They also threw 41 interceptions in 1944 which is still the third highest total in NFL history. McCarthy threw 13 of those interceptions, and completed 0 touchdown passes. His QB rating was only 3.0.
- They were the worst run defense in the league, and opponents outscored them 328-108.
The teams separated the next season, and the Cardinals eventually moved to St. Louis and then to Arizona.
So if the Steelers beat the Ravens and play the Cardinals or the Eagles in the Super Bowl, the folks from NFL Films, who always do a fine job, will have an opportunity to revisit this odd chapter in pro football history. Should that opportunity arise, I hope they take advantage of it.