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Stories of the Steagles

By Ryan Shute, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

The 79th overall meeting between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers will take place at Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday at 4:25 p.m.

Through the first 78 meetings, the Eagles hold the series lead with a record of 47-28-3.

Both franchises entered the NFL in 1933 but neither were called the Philadelphia Eagles or the Pittsburgh Steelers as they are referred to today. They were known as Frankford Yellow Jackets and the Pittsburgh Pirates respectively.

Both clubs were not very good for most of the seasons during their first decade. In 1943, some of the NFL’s players were drafted to fight in World War II causing a player shortage. Pittsburgh and Philly merged together for one season and were co-coached by Walt Kiesling of the Steelers and Greasy Neale of the Eagles to form the Steagles.

The Steagles called Shibe Park in Philadelphia their home and were surprisingly a competitive bunch, finishing in third place in the Eastern Division with a 5-4-1 record.

The Steelers were able to go back home to Pittsburgh in 1944, but the ongoing player shortage would have the Chicago Cardinals merge with them for that season and were known by the team name Card-Pitt. Unfortunately for Card-Pitt, they were winless wonders going 0-10 and were referred to by the media as "Carpets" for getting walked on by the league.

The Eagles on the other hand were able to stand alone in '44 and had the No. 1 ranked offense propel them to their first ever winning record of 7-1-2, marking the first of six consecutive winning seasons.

1947 would be a pivotal year of the interstate rivalry as they split the regular season series with Pittsburgh winning their home matchup 35-24 and the Eagles taking care of their home field with a 21-0 shutout.

Both teams would have identical records at years end meaning they would have an Eastern Divisional playoff game to determine which team would go on to play for the NFL Title. The Eagles would go into Pittsburgh and dominated the Steelers by the same 21-0 score.

Quarterback Tommy Thompson led the offense going 11-for-17 for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Thompson hit legendary running back Steve Van Buren for a first quarter score and found tight end Jack Ferrante for touchdown No. 2 in the second.

The exclamation point would come in the second half by way of a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown by Bosh Pritchard. This marked the Eagles first playoff win in franchise history and first of three consecutive NFL Championship Game appearances, that saw the Birds win the championship in 1948 and 1949.

The Eagles are 11-5 against the Steelers since the Super Bowl Era began in 1966. Home-field advantage has also been crucial as the home team has won 13 times, with Pittsburgh having lost all eight trips to Philly during this stretch.

The last road win of the series took place at Three Rivers Stadium in the year 2000. Kicker David Akers would tie the game up at the end of regulation with a 42-yard field goal and hit another field goal from the same distance in overtime to give the Birds a 26-23 win.

The Eagles would play at Heinz Field for the first time in 2004 and bring a 7-0 record and a Super Bowl contending swag with them to face a Steelers team led by rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It would be the young Roethlisberger that would come out victorious, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Hines Ward and tight end Jay Riemersma, as the Steelers would go onto shock the Birds in a 27-3 rout, making it the only "legit" defeat the Birds would suffer that year.

Roethlisberger stepped foot for the first time on the field at the Linc in 2008 and was instantly running for his life, but would often be caught up too. Roethlisberger was sacked eight times by six different Eagles defenders (Juqua Parker 2.5, Omar Gaither 1.5, and Brodrick Bunkley, Trent Cole, Darren Howard and Brian Dawkins 1 each). The Birds would win that afternoon by a score of 15-6 and it took five cycles in the washing machine for Roethlisberger's uniform to be clean.

Michael Vick was at the head of the Eagles quarterback helm in 2012 when the two met last. Vick had two costly fumbles that lead to turnovers in the game. One of which came in the first half when Pittsburgh defender Ryan Clark knocked the ball loose at the Pittsburgh one-yard line and linebacker Larry Foote recovered it for a touchback in the end zone eliminating a crucial scoring opportunity.

Vick was on the road to redemption in the second half as he threw a touchdown pass to running back LeSean McCoy and another in the fourth quarter to tight end Brent Celek with 6:33 left to give the Eagles a 14-10 lead. But it was Roethlisberger who took the ball from his own 20 and put together a 14-play drive that ended with a Shaun Suisham 34-yard field goal as time expired for the Pittsburgh 16-14 win. The Eagles season would then spiral out of control as the Eagles would go on to lose 10 of the last 11 games leading to the dismissal of long time head coach Andy Reid.

In 2016, Roethlisberger is still the starting quarterback for the Steelers and is coming into Philadelphia as a veteran of a team that has great expectations against a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz. This is very similar to when the established Donovan McNabb went into Pittsburgh to face a rookie Roethlisberger in 2004.

This brings up some interesting thoughts on projecting the outcome of Sunday's game. Will it come full circle where the Eagles rookie quarterback knocks a projected Super Bowl contender down a peg or will the visiting Steelers buck the trend for the road team in the series for the first time in 16 years and mark a Pittsburgh win in Philly for the first time in 51 years?

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