THE STEELERS' SUPER SEVENTIES
Dan Rooney, president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, reflected on a magic moments in the Steelers' history.
Super Bowl XIII in Miami ranks high on Rooney's list of the Steelers' greatest games of the seventies. The Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 35-31 to become the first team to win three Super Bowls. It was the most exciting and highest scoring of the 13 Super Bowls played to that date.
Even so, in Rooney's ratings, Super Bowl XIII ranks only second or third - he's not sure which - among the Steelers' greatest games of the decade. He rates the Steelers' first Super Bowl success, a 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans in Super Bowl IX, as number one. "You never replace the feeling of that first Super Bowl victory," he says.
Rooney's runner-up choice for his "greatest game" either is winning that third Super Bowl title in Miami, which brought immortality to the team by ranking it with the Green Bay Packers of the late 1960s, or the "Immaculate Reception" playoff game that took place December 23, 1972, in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium.
The Oakland Raiders led 7-6 with 22 seconds left to play, when Terry Bradshaw threw a desperate fourth-down pass to running back John (Frenchy) Fuqua. The receiver and Raiders safety Jack Tatum went for the ball as one. The ball was deflected by either Tatum (legally) or Fuqua (illegally) into the hands of Franco Harris, who caught it off his shoetops, then tight-roped down the sideline to score the game-winning touchdown.
The Steelers qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 1972. A game in the drive to win a division championship remains vivid in Rooney's mind. That was the Steelers' 23-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Pittsburgh. "Minnesota had been a Super Bowl team, and that gave us confidence. It was a key game," Rooney says.
Pittsburgh won its next three games - against Cleveland, Houston, and San Diego - finishing with an 11-3 record. Rooney regards that last game as an important one, too. "We were playing late that day, and we knew we had to win in order to win our first division championship," he says. The Steelers steamrollered the Chargers 24-2.
On December 29, 1974, the Steelers rolled over the Raiders 24-13 in Oakland to win their first AFC Championship and gain their first Super Bowl.
"What was so unique about that game was that it showed the character of Chuck Noll and the team," Rooney says. "Right before the end of the first half, Bradshaw threw a touchdown pass to rookie John Stallworth. The officials ruled that Stallworth was out of bounds when he made the catch. The instant replay proved otherwise.
"But we didn't cry or go into hysteria. Not the way Al Davis [Oakland's managing general partner] did after `The Immaculate Reception' two years before. Noll went into the dressing room and told our guys, 'That was a touchdown, but it doesn't mean anything. Don't get down. We're still going to beat them.' And, we did."
The Steelers went on to defeat the Vikings for their first Super Bowl title.
We finished the 1975 season by defeating Dallas for our second straight Super Bowl [X] championship. "It may have been the best Super Bowl ever. Bradshaw and Lynn Swann were so great in that one. Swann made so many great catches. And our defense was devastating [in a 21-17 victory]. "
The Steelers didn't win the Super Bowl the following year, yet Dan shares his dad's sentiments that the 1976 Steelers may have been the best football team in history. Rooney chose a 7-3 victory over the Bengals on a snowy day in Cincinnati. "That may have been the best defense ever played in the NFL," he says.
With some relish, Rooney recalls a 34-5 victory over the Houston Oilers in the AFC Championship Game at Three Rivers Stadium January 7, 1979. "It came up cold and rainy," Rooney says. "There were two inches of water on the field. And we just completely dominated Houston."
From there, the Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XIII. "This was the game in which the Cowboys came back," he said. "They scored two touchdowns in two minutes near the end to make it close. This made us the first team to win three Super Bowls, which made it a big, big thing. Others had won two. This put us at the top.
The next game was in the Super Bowl the following year, on January 20, 1980, against the Los Angeles Rams at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. "We were playing the Rams in California in what turned out to be a home game for us," Rooney says. "Our fans completely dominated the Los Angeles fans that day, and, I believe, contributed in a big way to our win.
The final score was 31-19, and I think it may have been the second best Super Bowl game in history. Los Angeles played well, but the fans did a lot to carry us through. It made us the first team to win it four times."
Jim O'Brien writing for the Gameday programme December 19, 1982
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