PROVIDENCE STEAM ROLLER
NEW ENGLAND’S 1ST CHAMPION
The Providence Steam Roller was an NFL franchise from 1925-1931 that won the 1928 NFL Championship (they are the last non-surviving franchise to win an NFL title).
You mean Providence had its own football team – really? The 1920 Census lists Providence as the nation’s 27th largest city – ahead at that time of current NFL cities such as Oakland (31), Atlanta (33), Dallas (42), Houston (45), Nashville (56) and Jacksonville (79) to name a few. Even today, the Providence metropolitan area is larger than current NFL markets such as Buffalo, Jacksonville, Milwaukee-Green Bay and New Orleans.
The Steam Roller hosted the first NFL night game and became the first team to play four regulation games in six days. Another Steam Roller NFL first was they were the first (and possibly the only) NFL team to play at a bicycle racing stadium – the Cycledrome.
The Cycledrome was built strategically on the Providence—Pawtucket city line. . . . Adapting the Cycledrome for football engendered some very unusual playing circumstances. The 100-yard field just fit inside the track, but there was not enough room for the now-familiar 10-yard end zones. Each end zone was cut off by the steeply banked portions of the track at the turns. Thus, one end zone was 10 yards, but the other was only five. Games were regularly packed; Providence set an early NFL attendance record of 13,000 fans for a game against the New York Giants.
The Providence Steam Roller drew large crowds throughout the 1920s. . . . One of the team’s most famous firsts was playing a night game; to help players the ball was even painted white. However, this game was played at Providence’s Kinsley Park. Still, the success of this experiment led . . . to the permanent floodlights at the Cycledrome in 1930.
The Steam Roller was established in 1916 by members of the Providence Journal . . . The team soon became a regional power and by the mid-1920s was known as the best independent team in the country. By 1919 the team was drawing in more spectators than Brown University by a margin of 2–1, due to newspaper reports at the time. . . .
In 1924, Providence’s schedule featured several NFL teams. The Steam Roller posted a 3–2–1 record against those teams, . .. Providence joined the NFL in time for the 1925 season. By that time only three players from the 1924 team were still in the line-up when the team’s first practice of 1925 was held on September 17. In fact, only about a dozen of them wore Steam Roller colors for the team’s debut in the NFL. The Steam Roller had played mediocre football in their first two NFL seasons, but posted a strong 8–5–1 record in 1927 . ….
1928 Championship Season
|Providence Steam Roller*||8||1||2||.889||128||42||86||7.8|
|Frankford Yellow Jackets||11||3||2||.786||175||84||91||5.7|
|Green Bay Packers||6||4||3||.600||120||92||28||2.2|
|New York Giants||4||7||2||.364||79||136||-57||-4.4|
|New York Yankees||4||8||1||.333||103||179||-76||-5.8|
Despite their 1928 championship, the team experienced troubles in 1929. . . . The 1929 Steam Roller struggled to a 4–6–2 record, resulting in a 7th place league finish. This caused the fans, who attended each game during the championship season, to stay home.
The team posted a 6–4–1 record in 1930 and a 4–4–3 record in 1931. The lack of interest, coupled with the Great Depression in 1930, caused [the owners] to suspend operations after the 1931 season. The three owners then gave up and turned the franchise back over to the NFL in 1933.
|1931||NFL||Providence Steam Roller||4||4||3||78||127||-49||Robinson|
|1930||NFL||Providence Steam Roller||6||4||1||90||125||-35||Conzelman|
|1929||NFL||Providence Steam Roller||4||6||2||107||117||-10||Conzelman|
|1928||NFL||Providence Steam Roller||8||1||2||Won Champ||128||42||86||Conzelman|
|1927||NFL||Providence Steam Roller||8||5||1||105||88||17||Conzelman|
|1926||NFL||Providence Steam Roller||5||7||1||89||103||-14||Laird|
|1925||NFL||Providence Steam Roller||6||5||1||111||101||10||Golembeski|