When the Steelers changed colors for one season what color did they wear?

When the Steelers changed colors, what did they wear?

The real question should be: what color DIDN’T they wear at one point in time?

The traditional black and gold uniforms go back to the inaugural 1933 season, however, Pittsburgh has worn green, red, and blue uniforms during the Second World War due to mergers the Steelers were forced to make financial reasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Cardinals in 1943 and 1944, respectively.

In 1943, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles were forced to merge their organizations to stay financially solvent. Officially known as Phil-Pitt in NFL books, the fans called the team the Steagles.

While the prefix of the nickname may have made Pittsburgh fans feel familiar with the one-time roster, the uniforms they saw would have been hard to accept. Gone was Pittsburgh’s black and gold and instead the team wore the green and white colors and logo of the Philadelphia Eagles.

1943 “Steagles” helmet.

On June 19, 1943, the NFL gave the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh organizations’ permission to merge for one season due to the lack of players and coaches available due to enlistment in the military for World War II. (Twenty-three NFL players or coaches died in World War II.) Home games were played split between both cities. Even the coaching duties were split: Philadelphia’s Earle “Greasy” Neale and Pittsburgh’s Walt Kiesling worked as co-coaches.

The strange relationship wasn’t that bad as far as results: the 1943 “Steagles” went 5-4-1 with a special schedule that gave the team six home dates (three for both cities) and four road games. Phil-Pitt went 5-1 in their combined home dates, with the lone loss being the season finale at Shibe Park in Philadelphia (a 38-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers).

On December 5, the day of the finale against the Packers, the Phil-Pitt merger automatically dissolved according to the NFL’s agreement.

1943 Phil-Pitt uniform of the “Steagles”

For Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney, however, the merger proved to be successful enough that he was willing to do it again for the 1944 season. Players were still sparse due to the war effort and Rooney’s funds were shallow, as was that of the Chicago Cardinals. Instead of partnering with the Eagles for the 1944 season, Rooney’s Steelers merged with Charles Bidwell’s Chicago Cardinals.

The NFL officially recognized the 1944 merger as Card-Pitt, but the woeful team quickly became known to fans as the “Carpets” because the woeful team let every opponent walk all over them. Outscored 328-108, the “Carpets” finished the season 0-10. As with the 1943 season, the co-head coaches were Chicago’s Phil Handler and Pittsburgh’s Kiesling.

As bad as the Card-Pitts were, at least the fans in Pittsburgh didn’t have to cheer for the hometown team wearing green and white any longer. The home dates for the Card-Pitts were split between Chicago and Pittsburgh, with the team wearing the home team’s uniforms in that city. Football fans living in Pittsburgh who never saw the team play in Chicago were spared the sight of seeing their beloved Steelers wearing the red and white uniforms of the Cardinals.

Logo of 1944 Card-Pitt merger team.

The team was so horrible and desperate for anything to jumpstart success that they even wore a third uniform for a special Halloween game in Washington D.C. On October 29, 1944, the Card-Pitts played the Washington Redskins wearing blue jerseys with a hope of igniting a spark. There was a spark ignited, but it was the flaring tempers of the players who got into three fights before halftime. One fight was so bad that Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney, a former boxing champ, jumped into the melee to defend his players.

Mercifully, the Card-Pitt experiment ended on December 3 immediately after a listless 49-7 loss to the Chicago Bears at Forbes Field in the season finale.

 

SOURCES:

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Media Guide

http://www.profootballhof.com/football-history/general-history-chronology-1940-to-1959/

http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/steelers/2009/01/25/Not-so-super-Cardinals-Steelers-weren-t-so-Super-in-1944/stories/200901250258

http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/2007/08/25/Blood-Brothers-The-1943-Steagles-became-an-unlikely-product-of-the-war-years/stories/200708250100

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