Providence Steam Roller
1916-1924: The Providence Steam Roller were founded in 1916 by sports-editor Charles Coppen and part-time sports-writer Pearce Johnson of the Providence Journal, the team was owned by Charles Coppen, James Dooley and Peter Laudati, while Pearce Johnson serves as the team’s General Manager. The team became a regional power and soon became one of the best known independent teams in the country. The team’s name came when an owner overheard a member of an opposing team remark we are getting crushed by a steamroller. The team’s payroll was less than those in the Midwest who were among the first teams to join the NFL, so they had trouble signing college players. They did manage to get a few current college players using alias to not disrupt their amateur status. In 1924, the Steam Roller played seven games against NFL teams, posting a 4-2-1 record as they claimed the mythical title champions of the Northeast. The Steam Roller’s success would lead to them asking to join the National Football League.
1925: Upon joining the NFL, the Providence Steam Roller coached by moved into The Cycledrome a stadium, which held 10,000 spectators was original built as a bicycle racing stadium (velodrome). The football field was snugly surrounded by a wooden track with steeply-banked ends, which cut sharply into the end zones and reduced them to just five yards in depth. During football games, temporary seating was permitted on the straight-away portion of the track, which was so close to the field that players, after being tackled, often found themselves in the stands. The Steam Roller made their NFL debut on October 3rd, suffering 7-0 loss to the Frankford Yellow Jackets a day later they would get their first win against the Pottsville Maroons 6-0. The Steam Roller would make their home debut against the New York Giants, winning 14-0. Following a 34-0 loss to the Maroons, the Steam Roller won three of their next four games. However, Providence would slump in the final weeks winning just one of their final four games to post a record of 6-5-1, finishing in tenth place.
1926: The Providence Steam Roller now coached by Jim Laird in their second season got off to a strong start, winning four of their first five games. However, they would win just one of their final eight games as they played one of the hardest schedules in the NFL and finished in 11th place with a record of 5-7-1.
1927: Looking to improve after two mediocre seasons, the Providence signed George “Wildcat” Wilson, who was head of the AFL’s traveling Los Angeles Wildcats in 1926. They also signed Jimmy Conzelman to serve as the team’s quarterback and coach. Despite losing two of their first three games, the Steam Roller would be one of the strongest teams in the NFL as they got back on track with three straight wins in October, including a weekend sweep of the Frankford Yellow Jackets. However, any chance to win the NFL Championship vanished as they won just one of five games in November. The Steam Roller would close the season with three straight wins, posting a record of 8-5-1 good enough for fifth place.
1928: The Steam Roller opened the season the way the previous season began as they defeated the New York Yankees 20-7. Despite a 10-6 loss to the Frankford Yellow Jackets, Providence went on a four game winning streak to move to the front of the NFL standings. The Steam Roller would face the Yellow Jackets in a weekend series in November. The series would go a long way into determining the NFL Championship. The opener in Frankford would see the two top teams in the NFL play to a scoreless tie. The following day at The Cycledrome the Steam Roller would slip past the Jackets with a 6-0 win to gain the top spot in the standings. The Steam Roller would follow up their win against the Yellow Jackets, with shutout wins against the New York Giants and Pottsville Maroons. Despite ending the season with a 7-7 tie against the Green Bay Packers, the Providence Steam Roller record of 8-1-2 was good enough to win the NFL Championship base upon having a better win percentage than the Frankford Yellow Jackets. A victory banquet at the Biltmore Hotel took place a week later. At the banquet, each player was rewarded with a gold watch. It was also at this event that Conzelman was given a trophy and named the team’s “Most Valuable Player”. Five of the Steam Roller players gained All-NFL honors when the league issued its official honor roll on December 23rd.
1929: Looking to defend their championship, the Steam Roller began the season with a 41-0 win over the Dayton Triangles. However, several of the key players that won the championship for Providence were heavily involved with their off season jobs, Gus Sonnenberg won the World Champion of Professional Wrestling, defeating Strangler Lewis. Clyde Smith retired to coach football in Missouri, while Curly Oden spent most of his time selling insurance full time. Making matters worse QB Jimmy Conzelman was hobbled all season with a sore knee. After a 7-0 loss to the New York Giants, the Steam Roller defeated the Orange Tornadoes 7-0 to improve to 2-1. However, over the next month the Steam Roller struggled, going winless in six straight games, with a record of 0-4-2. In one week in November, the Providence Steam Roller played a marathon stretch of four games in six days. The highlight of the week came on November 6th when the Steam Roller hosted the Chicago Cardinals at Kinsley Park, where flood lights were installed for the first ever night game in NFL history. The Steam Roller would lose the game 16-0. The game was originally scheduled for the Cycledrome, but heavy rains made the stadium unplayable. The Steam Roller would go on to finish in eight place with a disappointing record of 4-6-2.
1930: Looking to rebound, the Providence Steam Roller played well early in the season, winning four straight after starting the year with a 27-7 loss to the New York Giants. However, they would not be able to maintain that level of play the entire season, as they suffered a second loss to the Giants. Providence would go on to finish the year with a record of 6-4-1, good enough for fifth place.
1931: With the departure of Jimmy Conzelman, the Providence Steam Roller were now coached by Ed Robinson. Providence slumped early in the season, winning just one of their first six games. The Steam Roller would win their next three games to get back over .500. However, with a loss and a tie in the final two games the Steam Roller closed the year at 4-4-3. Their final game on November 29th was a scoreless tie against the New York Giants on November 29th. It would serve as the final game the Providence Steam Roller would ever play as fan interest was hurt by the Great Depression leading the team’s owners to suspend operations and eventually hand the team back to the league. The NFL would never return to Providence, though the New England Patriots Foxboro home is actually closer to Providence than Boston.
©MMXV Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the National Football League. This site is not affiliated with the Providence Steam Roller or the NFL. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on February 22, 2015. Last updated on February 22, 2015 at 9:55 pm ET.