Thursday, January 15, 2009

Talk About Entwined Destinies

If the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday to win the AFC Championship, they're guaranteed to play a piece of their past in the Super Bowl. You see, they were, briefly, one with both the Eagles and the Cardinals:

As national duty cut into N.F.L. rosters during World War II — more than 600 players were drafted at a time when teams seldom carried more than 28 — franchises scrambled for solutions. So in 1943, the Steelers and the Eagles became the Steagles, and in 1944, the Steelers and the Cardinals became Card-Pitt, all in the interest of keeping professional football alive during the war.
Neither merger faired particularly well, although the Steagles bore some interesting fruit:
Under Greasy Neale of Philadelphia and Walt Kiesling of Pittsburgh, who served as co-coaches, the Steagles also contributed to the game’s development. Because Neale and Kiesling hated each other, they divided responsibilities along the lines of offense and defense. Modern offensive and defensive coordinators were thus born of a loveless marriage.
The Steagles went 5-4-1 that season, which is a far cry from what Card-Pitt produced the next year: 0-10. In that case, the coaches apparently got along too well:
But at least the Steelers’ Kiesling got along much better with his new coaching partner, Phil Handler of Chicago. The problem, according to Algeo, was that Kiesling and Handler might have gotten along a little too well. 'Legend has it they spent more time at the racetrack than watching game film,' he said.

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