Philly Sports News: Revisiting some memorable Eagles-Steelers games

September 22nd, 2016 by Kyle Lutz | Filed under Eagles, Football, General, NFL, Sports.

Over the years, despite the fact that neither team plays in the same conference as the other, the Steelers and Eagles have had some memorable games. This is in addition to the fact that, 73 years ago, the Eagles and Steelers temporarily combined to be one team, the Steagles, due to both teams having lost many of their players to World War II. Since both teams started playing each other in 1933, surprisingly, the Eagles have a 46-28-3 record vs. Pittsburgh. One of the 77 games was added to the Eagles’ 10 greatest games DVD that came out seven-years ago.

On November 12th, 2000, at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium, the Eagles put together a late fourth-quarter comeback to win in overtime, 26-23. With 3:55 left in the game, trailing 20-13, the Eagles were able to stop Hall of Fame halfback Jerome Bettis on 3rd down. Despite the stop, 13 seconds later, Pittsburgh kicker Kris Brown kicked a 40-yard field goal to increase their lead to 10. Kick returner and running back Brian Mitchell ran back the ensuing kick for 23 yards. After three-straight completions, and a lucky unnecessary-roughness call, on a fade route, Donovan McNabb caught Mitchell for 13 yards and a touchdown.

Then the Eagles successfully executed an onside-kick attempt, recovered the ball, and, as time expired, went on to tie the game at 23 all. During their last two drives, they were able to score 10 points in just two-and-a-half minutes. That year, the Steelers’ defense only allowed 13 passing touchdowns (McNabb had two of them that game, and 0 turnovers), and their unit ranked in the top 10 in several categories, including takeaways. 10:44 into overtime, with a 42-yard field goal, Eagles’ kicker David Akers won the game.

2000- Final Score- Eagles 26-23

In 1947, the 8-4 Steelers suffered their first ever playoff loss, 21-0 to the Eagles. A year later, vs. Chicago, the Eagles would win their first-ever championship. In that 1947 season, Pittsburgh was an even-keeled team, on both offense and defense. They ranked seventh in the league in both points for and points against (240-259). In October of that season, at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia 35-24, despite Eagles’ Hall of Fame halfback Steve Van Buren rushing for 133 yards. Leading up to their December divisional-round postseason game, the Steelers that season had three games with 30 or more points, including 38 at the Polo Grounds, yet in their playoff loss, they were shut out and only mustered 154 total yards. Two Pro Football Hall of Famers started that day for the Eagles (halfback Steve Van Buren and center/defensive end Alex Wojciechowic).

1947- Final Score- Eagles 21-0

12 years later, in 1959, neither team was spectacular — the Eagles were 7-5, while Pittsburgh was 6-5-1. That year, the Eagles were coming off of a horrendous, last place, 2-9-1 performance. Defensive back Jimmy Carr came over from Chicago and made an impressive impact, with five interceptions. The ’59 Steelers’ offense was up-and-down, scoring fewer than 20 points on five occasions, while scoring 35 vs. Chicago and shutting out the Eagles 31-0 at home.

On November 29th, besides shutting out the Eagles 31-0, Pittsburgh’s offense put up almost 400 yards, while Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne threw four touchdown passes. Uncharacteristically, Eagles’ Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin threw four interceptions, and had just a 27.08 quarterback rating.

(Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin)

(Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin)

1959- Final Score- Steelers 31-0

In 1965, neither team was very good (Philadelphia was 5-9, while Pittsburgh was 2-12). It was the fourth straight losing season for the Eagles, and Norm Van Brocklin no longer was around, having retired after the 1960 championship game. On offense, the Eagles were average, with Norm Snead behind center, and tight end Pete Retzlaff accumulating 1190 receiving yards, which ranked second in the league, and 10 touchdowns, which ranked third in the league. Meanwhile, the Steelers’ defense ranked 12th out of 14 in points allowed, and were dead last in points (202).

In that match-up on December 12th, disregarding the score, it would seem like it would be an even match, considering how poor both teams’ defenses were that season. As for the game, the Eagles scored 27 points in the first quarter, led 34-13 at halftime, and surprisingly won 47-13. In NFL history, perhaps Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks that game put up one of the worst performances, if not the worst, in a single game. Tommy Wade threw seven interceptions, while his backup, Bill Nelsen, didn’t fare much better in relief; throwing two interceptions in only five pass attempts. Their two QBs had a combined 46.3 passer rating, and were intercepted 21% of the time. Despite a mediocre performance by Norm Snead (2 interceptions and a 33 completion percentage), the Eagles took advantage of the Steelers’ mistakes, scored three touchdowns by way of an interception, and won the game.

1965- Final Score- Eagles 47-13

In 2004, both teams were both riveting and unstoppable. The 2004 NFL season was interesting; Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning broke Dan Marino’s 20-year-old touchdown pass record, 49-48, Steelers’ rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, and Pittsburgh went 15-1. The Eagles were no slouch, going 13-1 with their starters, acquiring All-Pro wide-out Terrell Owens, signing Pro Bowl defensive end Jevon Kearse to a record-breaking eight-year contract, and ranking second in fewest points allowed (260, ironically behind Pittsburgh). Despite Terrell Owens’ severe ankle injury that sidelined him up until the Super Bowl, as mentioned, the Eagles were able to finally go over the hump and make the Super Bowl. Despite losing to New England 24-21, it was an intriguing, exciting year. In the AFC Championship Game that year, 15-1 Pittsburgh lost 41-27 to New England.

Week nine of that season, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh squared off at a windy Heinz Field. The Steelers balanced offensive attack ran over the Eagles, as they tallied 420 yards, while Philadelphia only had 113. Despite numerous offensive Pro Bowlers, the Eagles’ west-coast offense failed, going 0-8 on third down, while Jerome Bettis tore through the Eagles’ defensive line, accumulating 149 rushing yards. Donovan McNabb was sacked four times, while running backs Brian Westbrook, Dorsey Levens and Reno Mahe only had 23 rushing yards. In a blowout, Pittsburgh won decisively, 27-3. The Eagles haven’t won a road game at Pittsburgh since that 2000 game. Frequently on the sidelines, CBS cameras caught Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens bickering over the lack of success that day, and how to conquer Pittsburgh’s defense.

2004- Final Score- Steelers 27-3

In the final Eagles-Steelers game at the Vet, the Eagles’ defense forced five turnovers, intercepted Kordell Stewart three times, while rookie quarterback Bobby Hoying threw for two touchdown passes. In his second-to-last season with Philadelphia, Pro Bowl wideout Irving Frayar was targeted by Hoying on 12 occasions, caught seven passes, and had 116 receiving yards; his fifth 100+ receiving yard game of that season. Besides the turnovers, Pittsburgh fared pretty well, especially on the ground, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and going 6-13 on third down. It was a memorable game for both teams, considering how their seasons ended following the game. In the remaining four games, Hoying threw six interceptions, and, showing his lack of experience, had a 77.7 passer rating.

Afterwards, despite the win, Ray Rhodes and the Eagles went on to lose three out of four. From the rest of that season until the end of his tenure (a year later), Ray Rhodes was 1-4 vs. AFC teams. After allowing only 20 points to Pittsburgh that day, the Eagles’ defense allowed 32 points per game through the end of the season. In reverse, afterwards, Pittsburgh went on to win three out of their final four games, and ended up losing in the AFC Championship Game.

1997- Final Score- Eagles 23-20

Sunday afternoon’s game should be very interesting, with many Pro-Bowl caliber players suiting up, including Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers’ wide-out Antonio Brown, Eagles’ defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and Eagles’ rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. Both teams are 2-0, and through two games, Carson Wentz has been regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the league so far, while Pittsburgh’s 3.5 point favorites for Sunday.

Prediction- Steelers 31-21

I’ll take the over on this one (the over/under’s 46); I foresee the Eagles’ secondary as no match for the Steelers’ passing game, especially with a healthy Antonio Brown in the slot. While having a respectable season so far, defensive back Nolan Carroll most likely will be tasked with slowing down Brown; no easy task at all. If Wentz can avoid long throws, turnovers, and overcome pressure, the Eagles have a shot.

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