Pennsylvania Keystoners

Pennsylvania Keystoners

The Pennsylvania Keystoners was the idea for an American football team thought up by Pittsburgh Steelers owner, Art Rooney, in 1939 to have an single National Football League franchise based in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The team would play half of it's home games in each location.

The idea for the Keystoners is the result is from a "franchise two-step" between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Steelers that still exists with the most convoluted in sports history. It began when Rooney sold the Steelers to become co-owner of the Eagles before getting the Steelers back about four months later. As documented in the newspapers of the day, neither team had posted a winning record in their first eight years of existence. Losses on the field were compounded by the combined loss of about $190,000 in Depression dollars. And in 1940, a suitor named Alexis Thompson approached Eagles owner Bert Bell about purchasing an NFL team that he wanted to move to Boston.

Bell brokered a deal in which Rooney sold the Steelers for $160,000 which was 64 times his original franchise start-up fee of $2,500 in 1933, and Rooney in turn invested $80,000 to become partner with Bell in the Eagles. The deal, which also involved the trade of 11 Steelers to the Eagles and eight Eagles to the Steelers, came to light on December 8, 1940, the day the Chicago Bears walloped the Washington Redskins, 73-0, in the NFL title game.

The Pittsburgh team was originally renamed the Iron Men, and later the Pittsburgh Keystoners, but the move to Boston fell through. The Rooney/Bell idea to have one Keystone franchise with games in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh was vetoed as well. Rooney, meanwhile, had second thoughts about leaving Pittsburgh, and he caught Thompson just at the right time. Rooney and Bell would take their Philadelphia operation back to Pittsburgh and rename it the Steelers while Thompson, who lived a playboy lifestyle in New York City, could move a franchise to Philadelphia and play as the Eagles.

Because the Steelers never actually missed a game in Pittsburgh, the NFL considers the Rooney Family's ownership reign to be unbroken. But from 1941 to 1946, when Bell became NFL commissioner and gave up his half interest in the Steelers, the club's operating name was still refered to as the Philadelphia Eagles Football Club Inc.

The teams would merge though for one season in 1943 as the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh "Steagles" due to player shortfalls brought on by World War II.


* [ Blood Brothers: The 1943 Steagles became an unlikely product of the war years]
* [ Steagles: When the Steelers and Eagles were One in the Same]

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