In A Nutshell
World War II was a pretty rough time for sports. After all, a lot of athletes were joining the war effort. That’s why in 1943, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles joined forces, combining into one team full of men who were turned down from military service.
The Whole Bushel
With World War II raging, the 1940s was a pretty bad decade for professional sports. For example, the Indy 500 was canceled in 1943 because the boys overseas needed the gasoline. The NFL was also in a tricky situation in 1943. Around 600 players and coaches had joined the war effort, cutting the organization in half. The Cleveland Rams lost so many players that they were forced to drop out of the 1943 season altogether. And for a while, it looked like the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers might have to follow Cleveland’s example.
After Pearl Harbor, the Eagles only had 16 players left. As for the Steelers, well, they only had six. It seemed like these teams were going to fold until someone came up with a wild idea. Combine the two teams. The result was officially called the Phil-Pitt Combine, but they were known in the media as the “Steagles.” The Steagles were a ragtag bunch of athletes who couldn’t join the war effort for one reason or another. Most of the men were deemed 4-F by the military, meaning they couldn’t sign up, and several others were 3-A, meaning they had a child born or conceived before the Japanese attacked Hawaii.
On paper, the Steagles were destined to lose. The team was a collection of deafness, eye problems, arthritis, and bad backs. Many of the players were over-the-hill and a bit bulgy in the belly. They also spent their time off the field working at factories, manufacturing weapons and supplies for their comrades across the world.
Adding insult to injury, the Steelers coach and the Eagles coach hated each other and were constantly bickering. But shockingly, by the end of the season, the Steagles had a record of 5-4-1. It was actually the first time in Philadelphia history that the Eagles had ever had a winning season.
Sadly, the two teams went their separate ways in 1944. The Eagles were able to play by themselves, and they eventually won three NFL championships. (They haven’t won football’s current highest honor, the Super Bowl, ever.)
The Steelers were forced to hook up with the Chicago Cardinals. Unfortunately for the Steelers, they lost every single game that year. Of course, things have improved a bit since then. The Steelers eventually won the Super Bowl a whopping six times.