November 19, 1933 |
Eagles 25, Steelers 6
August 9, 2018 |
Steelers 31, Eagles 14
|Next meeting||TBA, 2020 at Heinz Field|
|Meetings total||79 meetings|
|All-time series||PHI: leads 48–29–3|
|Current win streak||Pittsburgh 1|
The Eagles–Steelers rivalry is a National Football League (NFL) rivalry between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unofficially nicknamed "The Battle of Pennsylvania", this is an in-state, interconference rivalry between the two NFL teams located in the state of Pennsylvania. The Eagles lead the all-time series 48–28–3.
The rivalry is one of the oldest in the NFL, dating back to 1933. The most recent meetings between the teams was in 2016 at Lincoln Financial Field, with the Eagles beating the Steelers 34–3. The rivalry is one of two the Steelers have with the NFC East, the other being with the Dallas Cowboys; by contrast, the Steelers have friendly relations with the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins due to the Rooney family having intermarried with the Mara family and the team having once had scrimmages with the Redskins at each other's training camps, back when the Redskins held training camp in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Much like other rivalries between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the rivalry is mostly fueled by the two cities being within Pennsylvania and their sociocultural differences, with Philadelphia and the neighboring Lehigh Valley being part of the Northeast megalopolis while Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania in general being part of the Rust Belt and Appalachia. Central Pennsylvania, coined by residents as Pennsyltucky, is considered battleground territory between the two teams.
Both teams were officially founded in 1933, with the Steelers then being known as the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, their histories predate that, with the Steelers being known as the J.P. Rooneys dating to 1921 as a semipro team, while the Eagles are arguably descended from the Frankford Yellow Jackets based in Philadelphia's Frankford neighborhood dating to 1899. The NFL considers both teams having started in 1933 alongside the now-defunct Cincinnati Reds. Both teams took advantage of Pennsylvania relaxing their blue laws in 1933 that previously didn't allow sporting events on Sundays, when most NFL games took place. The blue laws, combined with general issues related to The Great Depression, were among the reasons the Yellow Jackets failed despite winning the NFL champsionship in 1926.
The first meeting between the teams was on November 19, with the Eagles winning, 25–6. The two teams would struggle their first decade in the NFL both on the field and financially, with the Steelers staying afloat mostly due to team founder Art Rooney's gambling habits. Eventually, in late 1940 Rooney sold the Steelers to Alexis Thompson, a 26-year-old steel heir from Boston frequently described in the press as "a well-heeled New York City playboy". Thompson planned to move the franchise to Boston and play games in Fenway Park. Eagles owner Bert Bell brokered the deal between Rooney and Thompson for $160,000, and Rooney used $80,000 of the proceeds to buy a partnership in the Eagles, which at the time was owned by Bell. The deal also involved the trade of several players between the two teams.
The two owners planned to field a combined Philadelphia-Pittsburgh team called the Pennsylvania Keystoners that would play home games in both cities. The original proposition was that Thompson would buy the franchise and take the Pittsburgh club to Boston and Bell and Rooney would pool their interests in the Eagles to form a Philadelphia-Pittsburgh club, splitting the home games between Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium. Thompson, however, was unable to secure a place to play in Boston. After meeting with Rooney, plans changed whereby Thompson's club (ostensibly the former Steelers) would play in Philadelphia as the Eagles, while the Rooney-Bell owned team would play in Pittsburgh as the Steelers, effectively trading the two clubs between their cities.
Steagles and post-war activity
The notion for a single team between the two cities was revived, when for one season in 1943, forced to do so by player shortfalls brought on by World War II, the two clubs temporarily merged as the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh "Steagles". The league only approved the merger for one year; Pittsburgh was willing to merge again for 1944 but not Philadelphia. This forced the Steelers to merge with the Chicago Cardinals (as Card-Pitt) for 1944.
Following the end of the war, both teams fortunes changed, with the Eagles and Steelers both clinching playoff spots in the late 1940s, including their only postseason meeting to date in 1947, when the Eagles shut out the Steelers 21–0 at Forbes Field. It would be the Steelers only playoff appearance until the Immaculate Reception 25 years later. The Eagles, under head coach Greasy Neale, won NFL championships in 1948 and 1949.
During the 1950s and 1960s, both teams success and failures would be relative to one another, to the point that both teams would be "competing" for the worst record in the NFL in 1968 and the chance to draft O.J. Simpson. Ultimately, the Atlanta Falcons had the NFL's worst record and the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League would win out on what was at that point the common draft. The Eagles, drafting third, would select Leroy Keyes while the Steelers, drafting fourth, would draft relative unknown Joe Greene. New Steelers head coach Chuck Noll would say later that the team would've drafted Greene even if it had the first overall pick, while Keyes (like Simpson a running back) was viewed by Eagles fans as more of a "consolation prize". Ultimately (Simpson's successful NFL career aside), Keyes lasted five years in the NFL; Greene would become a key member of the Steel Curtain defense and is now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and one of two Steelers to have their number officially retired.