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The Steelers 1979 season begins here>>>

Swann, Stallworth Tailored for Steelers

Lynn Swann was running a sideline pattern and the pass from Terry Bradshaw seemed too high for Swann to catch. Swann stuck out his gloved right hand up as high as he could reach and pulled the ball out of the air with a single hand.

Swann’s spectacular catch, good for an 18-yard gain on the Steelers third offensive play of the game, gave the Pittsburgh team a first down at the Kansas 26-yard line. It drew a roar from the Arrowhead Stadium crowd of 70,132. It was that good.

If that wasn’t enough, the Steelers pulled a flea flicker out of their grab bag on the next play, and Bradshaw passed 26 yards into the end zone to John Stallworth who was wide open. The Steelers had a fast start on their 30-3 victory over the Chiefs.

On Swann’s catch, Jim Schaaf, who came out of Erie to play guard for Notre Damme in the mid-50s and is now the general manager of the Chiefs, turned to his right hand man Otis Taylor, and told him, “He reminds me of a guy I used to know.”

Taylor smiled in response.

Otis Taylor was once one of the most feared wide receivers in the American Football League and similarly respected after the merger with the National Football League. He was one of the heroes in the 1970 Super Bowl triumph by the Chiefs over the Vikings.

Lynn Swann and John Stallworth imageTaylor sat in the press box alongside Schaaf and marvelled at the pass catching ability of both Swann and Stallworth. “They are great athletes, first of all,” said Taylor. “They know what to do and what not to do. When they get back on the sideline, whether of not they score, they go talk to Bradshaw. They do it all the time, watch them. They’ve got great communication. You’ve got to let the quarterback know what you can do.”

“The greatest thing out there,” added Taylor nodding towards the field, “is Bradshaw’s belief in his receivers and their belief in him.”

He cited a second period touchdown pass of 16 yards from Bradshaw to Swann as an example. Swann was well covered by cornerback Gary Green, but Bradshaw fired the ball over Green’s head – Green had his back turned to Bradshaw and couldn’t see the ball coming – and Swann simply soared high to grab it, managing at the same time to get both feet down inside the back line of the end zone.

“Bradshaw obviously felt Swann would catch that ball,” observed Taylor.

It was a play that also stuck in Coach Noll’s mind.

“We made mistakes, but they turned into big plays,” said Noll. “That touchdown pass to Swann was not executed the way we wanted to do it, and you wouldn’t normally throw the ball in there with the kind of coverage they had. But we made a mistake and it ends up being a big play. That’s a sign of talent.”

Swann recalled telling Bradshaw earlier, “Their guys aren’t that tall, and they can’t jump that high… throw it to me!”

On the next play, in a similar situation, Bradshaw purposely threw the ball way over Swann’s head and out of the end zone. Swann wanted that one too and told Bradshaw so on the sideline.

“He’s got great confidence,” noted Noll. “They all do.”

Bradshaw also speaks in superlatives about Swann and Stallworth and includes Jim Smith and Theo Bell when he boasts about the Steelers receiving corps. “They make some great catches,” Bradshaw acknowledged. “They know I’ll throw it. I expect them to make great catches. They make my job more fun. I just throw it up, and I know it’ll either get knocked down or caught.”

Taylor suggested, “A lot of people think Terry is underthrowing the ball when they have to go down to the ground to get it, but that’s by design. They slide in on one leg or one knee and curl around the ball. A low pass like that across the middle saves you (the receiver) from taking the hard hit from the defensive backs and also reduces the chances of interceptions.”

Taylor turned into a quarterback when asked who was better, Swann or Stallworth? “I’ll pass on that one,” he replied with a smile.

Jim O’Brien
November 12 Pittsburgh Press


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The Steelers 1979 season updated September 26th 2020.

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