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The Steelers 1979 season begins here>>>

Steelers Attempting To Avoid Relapse of Super Bowl Blues

It was a somewhat fitting way to set the stage for the new season last Sunday when Channel 11 replayed the tape of Super Bowl XIII. It gave the Steeler fans another chance to revel in what may have been the team’s finest moment.

But that was the success of last year. This is a new season and a new challenge.

To really give the Steeler fans a chance to appreciate the enormity of that challenge, it might have been more appropriate to show a tape of the Steelers’ 1976 opener at Oakland.

That was the Steelers’ first game the last time they came off a Super Bowl triumph. It has been said time and time again that it is tougher to stay on top than to get there, and that it is tough to avoid the “Super Bowl Blues.”

Yet no one game ever illustrated that point better. It was probably the Steelers’ most celebrated non-Super Bowl game. It was the infamous “Criminal Element” game. The most significant thing though, is that it was the game that started the most inexplicable month of the Chuck Noll era – the 1-4 start.

Avoiding that kind of start, avoiding another outbreak of the “Super Bowl Blues” is the task at hand as the Steelers go to New England to start the 1979 season.

To refresh the memory of the Oakland comeback has obscured the fact of how well the Steelers started that season for the first 55 minutes. They seemed destined to stuff the Raiders. Watching that tape brought it all back.

When they took a 28-14 lead with 6:43 left, Curt Gowdy (sports commentator) said, “They’re a powerful ball club. They are going to be tough again… awfully tough.”

When the Steelers had the ball on the Oakland 20 and a two-touchdown lead with less than six minutes left, it appeared just to be a mop up operation.

Terry Bradshaw was so confident that when he was run out of bounds and booed by the Oakland fans, he held the ball up towards the stands to taunt the fans – a most uncharacteristic Bradshaw gesture. The game seemed to be a laugher.

Then it all unravelled. On the play following Bradshaw’s taunt, Franco Harris fumbled. Seven plays later it was 28-21. A partially blocked punt gave the Raiders the ball back on the Steeler 29.

After three incomplete passes, Stabler ducked Joe Greene on fourth down and passed to Cliff Branch to the two. Stabler scored on the next play. An interception followed and a field goal gave the Raiders a 31-28 win.

It showed once again the fine line between victory and defeat and a pivotal game. Oakland was on its way to a 16-1 record and its only Super Bowl. The Steelers were on their way to a 1-4 start and needed nine straight wins to dig themselves out of that hole.

UPI photo of 1976 AFC Championship game

Steelers play Oakland again in the 1976 Championship game

They wound up fifteen weeks later playing at Oakland again in the AFC title game. They lost again. Sure, they didn’t have Franco and Rocky in that one. But the Raiders point out they had them in the opener. Again, no team has lost an opener and gone on to win a Super Bowl.

There is no such thing as going back to replay a game. But Monday night’s game in New England will be as close as you can get to doing that. If the Steelers expect to be in Pasadena in January; if they still have the drive and determination of a championship team; if they’re going to avoid the “Super Bowl Blues;” if they’re going to avoid the trauma of 1976, this is the kind of game they should win.

New England should be a good measuring stick of how the team stands compared to 1976. It just so happens that their last regular season game against New England was just two weeks after that Oakland game in 1976. It was an instant replay. The Steelers led 20-9 in the third and lost 30-27.

George Perles, the assistant head coach went back to look at the coaching film of the 1976 Steeler-Patriot game this week. “I can’t remember going back three years to look at a film,” he confessed. “Usually, the bad teams change too much and we play the good teams more often than that. I was surprised at how similar the two teams still are. They riddled us. They played well and we didn’t.”

So, the stage is set. The Steelers don’t think it can happen again. They still think they are the best team.”

Vito Stellino Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 1 1979

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The Steelers 1979 season updated January 18th 2020.

Ben's early Steelers games.

The Steelers 1978 season in full.
The Steelers 1977 season in full.
The Steelers 1976 season in full.

The Steelers 1975 season in full.
The Steelers 1974 season in full.

The first NFL champions the 1902 Pittsburgh Stars added June 2016

The Pittsburgh Americans added August 2015.

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