1975 game 1: The Pittsburgh Steelers at the San Diego Chargers
The Steelers intention was to stick with the run and they did on their first seven snaps. Franco Harris picked up 25 yards on five carries and Terry Bradshaw scrambled for eleven yards on a third down to set up Roy Gerela’s 29-yard field goal.
After the Chargers had gone three and out, the Steelers benefitted from the successful runs. The Steelers’ initial running game had set up the pass and on their next series, Bradshaw found Harris with a 19-yard completion followed by a play action call that launched a 40-yard touchdown strike to Frank Lewis.
In the second quarter, the always dominant Pittsburgh defense, increased the pressure on San Diego. J.T Thomas returned an interception 33 yards to the Chargers’ 26. Six plays later, Frenchy Fuqua took a flare pass from Bradshaw, but fumbled when hit at the goal line.
Gerry Mullins (picture right) recovered the loose ball in the end zone to enable the Steelers to increase their lead to 17-0 although most of the Steelers thought Fuqua had crossed the goal line before he let the ball go. Bradshaw didn’t realise the officials had ruled a fumble and thought it was his second touchdown.
Pittsburgh’s lead was stretched further before half-time with a Gerela 38-yard field goal.
In the third quarter, two Rocky Bleier fumbles prevented any Steelers’ progress before a Bradshaw pass was deflected in the end zone and the Steelers settled for a Gerela field goal from 25 yards and a 23-0 lead.
In the final period, Bradshaw completed five straight passes, finishing with a John Stallworth 38-yard touchdown catch
With seven minutes remaining, kicker Bobby Walden even managed to pitch a pass to Donnie Shell from punt formation to keep the final scoring drive alive. The play wasn’t a designed play, it just happened.
Coach Noll explained that the two outside men on the Chargers’ rush unit had moved down the line looking for a soft spot. That caused Walden to do the obvious thing. “They move inside, we throw,” offered Noll.
The final score came from a Mike Collier 7-yard touchdown run that increased the Steelers lead to 37-0.
The Steelers amassed 443 yards of total offense compared to the Chargers’ 145 yards.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 37 at the San Diego Chargers 0
San Diego Stadium, September 21st 1975; 38,987
Bradshaw 21 for 28 for 227 yards, 2 TDs
Harris 17 for 78; Lewis 1 for 12; Bradshaw 1 for 11; Collier 1 for 7; Bleier 14 for 43; Fuqua 2 for 9; Harrison 9 for 45;
Lewis 4 for 69 yards; L. Brown 1 for 13; Shell 1 for 19; Stallworth 3 for 56; Harris 2 for 24; Swann 3 for 28; Bleier 1 for 8; Fuqua 5 for 20; Harrison 1 for 4; Grossman 1 for 5
“I’ll eat my words,” smiled coach Noll referring to his preseason warning to his players that there lurked a danger for a championship team thinking it could turn it on like a guy turning on the water or pushing a button.
When somebody suggested that teams weren’t supposed to be able to turn it on like that, Noll replied, “Some teams can’t. Maybe that makes them an exception.”
Noll raved about the performance of Donnie Shell on the kicking teams. “He played exceptionally well on the special teams. He refused to be blocked.”
Terry Bradshaw observed of the team, “They showed me something. They came out smoking.”
The San Diego coach Tommy Prothro praised his opponents, “I don’t know what to say. They were impressive.”
NFL OWNERS PROPOSALS PUT TO BALLOT
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described the proposals reached between the NFL players and owners as stopping short of giving the players the moon, but providing them with a whole lot of money and freedom.
Dan Rooney commented, “The economic aspects of the proposal are scary. I just hope the owners can meet the economic conditions. I think we’ve given away much too much economically and in the Rozelle Rule and option compensation parts of the package. For the players though, it is an awfully attractive package, which I think they should accept.”
The most controversial objection the players had with their current agreement concerned, “the Rozelle Rule.”
The rule stated, ‘Any player may play one year beyond his contract at 90% of his previous salary, and then become a free agent. If the player signs with another team, they must compensate his previous club with draft choices, cash or veteran players. If the teams cannot agree on compensation, the NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle decides the reparation.’
The new proposal would give players 100% of their previous salary during their option year. In addition, no player with four or more seasons in the league could be part of such compensation.
No player with four or more years’ experience, who signs a contract for three or more years, will have to play an option year to obtain his free agency. Also, any player with at least seven seasons’ experience, who is placed on waivers before September 1 may immediately declare his free agency and bargain with any club rather than go through waiver proceedings and be forced to deal with just the one club.
“The Rozelle Rule business is not to my liking,” said Rooney. “I’m not sure how I’ll vote on the contract, but voting against it will be hard for us because we have made the proposal. It would be a gaffe to vote down your own proposal. That wouldn’t look too good, would it?”
Both owners and players will vote on the proposals.
Dan Rooney after testifying in the Rozelle Rule trial.
STEELERS LOOKING TOWARDS THEIR BUFFALO GAME
Next on the Steelers’ schedule was their trip to Buffalo. After their victory over San Diego, Andy Russell observed, “I looked up at the scoreboard and saw where Buffalo had scored 42 points against the Jets. Right away I realised that next Sunday would be providing a different test for our team.”
Reflecting on the previous season’s 32-14 playoff victory over the Bills, Russell continued, “O.J. Simpson is the greatest runner I’ve seen. Jimmy Brown had it for power, on power alone you would have to rank Brown the best ever.
But Simpson has both the power and the elusiveness. He’s a combination of Gale Sayers and Jim Brown. He can be coming right at you and you say to yourself, ‘This is going to be easy.’ Then he gives you a juke (fake) and you come up with nothing but air. Either that or he can just plain overpower you.”
Coach Noll’s observation on Buffalo was they were a solid football team and he believed their defense will be superior to the one the Steelers blew aside in the playoff game.
OAKLAND THE NFL’S TOP TEAM?
When coach Noll was asked if it bothered him that Oakland, not Pittsburgh, were billed as the NFL’s current super power, he showed no concern.
“Actually, I think it works to our advantage,” Noll replied. “But you have to remember that the same people who are saying these things also predicted that Los Angeles would go undefeated during the regular season.”
COMPLIMENTING DWIGHT WHITE
Defensive end Dwight White told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he appreciated all the compliments that he was being paid. “But it’s just the way they are worded,” he added. ”People keep making it sound like I had a bad year last year. That comparison always seems to be part of the compliment.”
“I have played well so far this season, but in my own mind, I played pretty well last year too and everybody makes it sound like I didn’t. That’s what I don’t appreciate.”
The Post-Gazette suggested that no one was saying White’s performance for the previous season was sub-standard, but when compared to the exceptional contributions from L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Joe Greene.
“I think the heart of the matter is that I just didn’t get much attention last year, just like Ernie didn’t the year before. I’m a right end and every offense in the league except Oakland is right handed, so I’m not going to be in so many plays as the guys on the left side. I’m always the guy chasing from behind. I do the running, the other guys do the running.
When we play Oakland, people always notice me because they run more plays my way. That’s inevitable since they have a left handed quarterback.”
When the Steelers played the Chargers in the season opener, it was the first time since the College All-Star game that the Steelers front four had played together.
“We’ve reached the point now,” offered White, “where Steve Furness can fit in any spot and we are all comfortable with him. He has his own style, but he’s effective and we know how well he can play. Someday, I’d like to see all five of us in there at the same time. We’d raise hell with either Ernie or Greenie playing nose tackle.
It’s like the odd 4-3 now. We’ve developed its personality depending on whether Ernie or Joe is on center. With Ernie you get a lot of destruction because he’s so physical. With Greenie you get a lot of movement and have less blockers to fight off because he draws more attention.
No matter what the combination is we’re compatible. But what I like is that we can be consistent and efficient no matter who is in there now. That’s my style.”
PLAYERS VOTE NO
Although a majority of NFL players rejected the owners’ latest proposals that were intended to see a new agreement confirmed, the Steelers voted 27-4 for acceptance.
“Our primary concern is to get this thing settled and to get back to playing football,” said Rocky Bleier, the Steelers’ player representative. “We realise the economic situation in our country and in professional football. We feel the offer presented by management is one we can both live with,”
The previous contract expired on February 1, 1974 and saw the players not covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
MIKE COLLIER TO STEP UP
As just one of the Steelers’ three rookies to make it on the team, Mike Collier had something to be satisfied with, but his aim is to become a starter. “Patience is a good pro’s virtue,” he said. “No pro just comes out and makes it. He has to wait his turn just like everybody else.”
1975 game 2: The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) vs The Buffalo Bills (1-0)
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bills, or should I suggest O.J., began to dominate the game. A Terry Bradshaw interception led to a Bills’ 37-yard field goal. Bradshaw then fumbled as the ball popped out while attempting a pass. The recovered fumble was then lateraled and run in from 26 yards to increase the Bills’ lead.
In the third quarter, with Buffalo on a third and inches on their own 12, the Steelers went into their goal line defense expecting O.J. to come up the middle. Reading a blitz, the Bills’ quarterback called an audible before handing off to Simpson who went to the outside and saw some daylight.
88 yards later, the Bills were 23-0 ahead and Simpson was well on his way to a 227-yard game. “I saw the back of his jersey for 80 yards,” explained Jack Ham. “I think he read me and ducked back outside. He’s incredible.”
With Joe Gilliam replacing Bradshaw in the third quarter, the Steelers finally put some points on the board. Franco Harris took it in from two yards before the Bills erased that score with another touchdown to take their tally to 30.
Gilliam added some respectability with a 20-yard pass to Randy Grossman and Harris finished the scoring with his one-yard run.
The game was all about O.J. Simpson. In the previous playoff game against Buffalo, Pittsburgh had put a brick wall in front of him. During this game, he found a way to knock it down.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 21 vs The Buffalo Bills 30
Three Rivers Stadium, September 29th 1975; 49,348
Passing: Bradshaw 3-8-1-0-69, Gilliam 11-21-1-1-200
Rushing: Harris 18-84, Fuqua 2-13, Bleier 7-14, Bradshaw 3-7
Receiving: Stallworth 3-103, Lewis 2-63, Swann 3-51, Harris 3-10, Grossman 1-20, Fuqua 1-13, Bleier 1-9
After the defeat, coach Noll said, “They talk about Pittsburgh being some place special. Well, O.J. is something special.” As for any potential quarterback controversy, Noll explained, “Terry Bradshaw is our quarterback. Joe fills in and helps out.”
Dwight White added, “I never played against Jim Brown. I’m sure he was great, but if ever there was a better back than O.J.!”
Simpson enthused, “There were two great things about this game. First of all, it came against the Steelers. I regard them as the best defensive team in football by far.
Secondly, I got a chance to do something I’ve never done before. I won what amounted to a 100-yard dash on the football field. Once I turned the corner on the 46, it was nothing but a sprint.”
POST BUFFALO OBSERVATIONS
“There not much difference between a good performance and a lousy performance,” insisted coach Noll as he reflected on the loss to the Bills. “Buffalo played exceptionally well,” he continued. “I don’t know if it was a case of our people playing poorly. We just didn’t come up with the big plays. If you just look at the score, it looks completely lopsided.”
“If it had been Oakland, I’d be really bitter this week,” Joe Greene said. “Some teams you’d rather die than lose to, but Buffalo isn’t one of them,” he added putting the defeat in perspective.
It was Greene’s respect for O.J.Simpson that made the loss acceptable. “He’s so good, he cause you to do things you don’t want to do. And they’ve got a good team too.”
Greene was reluctant to think the loss was a cause for real concern for the Steelers. “The next time we go on the field, I’ll be a better player and I think we’ll be a better team.”
BRADSHAW LEARNING FROM HIS MISTAKES
Terry Bradshaw claimed the biggest lesson he learned from the 1974 season was how to bounce back from mistakes.
“It used to be that I’d let a mistake get to me,” Bradshaw said. “I’d think about play after play day after day depending on how important it was. That would inhibit me and disrupt my concentration. You can’t be a successful quarterback with that kind of attitude.
Now I put my mistakes behind me and move on to the next play or the next game. You can’t let mistakes kill you. You’ve got to keep moving on. I don’t like mistakes. No one does, but I’ve learnt to live with them, learn from them and move on.”
With one superb performance (in the San Diego opener) and one dismal one (Buffalo) behind him, the pressure will be on Bradshaw to produce.
1975 game 3: The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at the Cleveland Browns (0-2)
Terry Bradshaw’s offensive line provided him with great pass protection and saw him complete his first seven passes. The Steelers dominated from the opening kick-off. Bradshaw led his team on a 12-play, 85-yard drive during the first quarter to score first with a 3-yard touchdown completion to John Stallworth.
In the second quarter, a Pittsburgh 85-yard drive completed by a Franco Harris touchdown run from one yard increased the Steelers' lead. As the Steelers’ defense held its own, Bradshaw again was the catalyst for a scoring drive with a 45-yard pass to Stallworth and one of 28 yards to Lynn Swann. Mike Collier’s one yard touchdown run gave the Steelers a 21-0 lead.
During that scoring drive, Bradshaw smacked his passing hand on a face mask resulting in a deep cut between the index and middle finger. After the series, he went out of the game to be replaced by Joe Gilliam.
When the Browns were next on offense, a brawl developed. The Steelers’ patience over the Browns’ incessant holding came to an end. The fight was initiated by L.C. Greenwood, but Joe Greene was made to pay the price with his ejection.
His teammates responded with Mel Blount’s interception, returned 17 yards. Two plays later, Gilliam’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Swann pushed the score line to 28-0.
After a quiet third quarter when neither team made any progress, the Browns struck in the final period with a scoring drive of 82 yards that was kept moving by five Steelers' penalties. To add to the Browns misery, their point after attempt was missed.
Gilliam continued the high percentage of completions for Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks and eventually connected with Reggie Garrett for a 45-yard touchdown. On the following series, he threw three straight completions for 71 yards before Reggie Harrison ran in the final touchdown from five yards.
Gilliam then dislocated his throwing hand’s index finger. Terry Hanratty then suited up for the first time in the season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 42 at the Cleveland Browns 6
Municipal Stadium, October 5th 1975; 73,595
Passing: Bradshaw 7-8-151- 1 TD, Gilliam 11-15-221- 2 TD – 2 Int
Rushing: Harris 17-57- 1 TD, Bleier 10-37, Bradshaw 1(-1), Collier 3-10- 1 TD, Fuqua 4-21, Harrison 4-14- 1 TD, Hanratty 1-0
Receiving: Swann 5-126- 1 TD, Stallworth 4-109- 1 TD, Garrett 3-84- 1 TD, L Brown 1-20, Grossmann 3-30, Harris 1-3, Bleier 1(-6)
The 46 points were the most scored by a Noll team and the most scored by the Steelers in this series going back 25 years. Bradshaw and Gilliam set a team record with 78.3% completions as the team went over 500 yards for the first time under Noll.
Stallworth observed, “We worked all week against single coverages because we knew the Browns would use it more against us than any other team we’ve played in a long time. Most teams use zones and combination coverages and, if they use man to man single coverages, they rotate their secondaries towards the strong side. Cleveland stays with plain ‘ol one-o-one, no rotation. We had a lot of running room.”
“Our pass blocking made the difference,” offered Swann. “Last week against Buffalo, our passers didn’t have the time to throw they had today. That kind of blocking makes it easier for receivers to make their moves and run their routes properly. Give us proper time; we can pass people to death.”
If they were taught how to play football instead of how to hold, they would be a better team,” Greene commented.
“I’ve never seen such holding,” added L.C. Greenwood. “We’re not the type of team that wants to go out and fight people, but we must try and protect ourselves.
DENVER NEXT UP FOR STEELERS
For their next game, the Steelers host the Denver Broncos. In their previous game, Denver were hammered 38-14 by O.J. Simpson and the Bills.
Despite the defeat, their coach John Ralston was optimistic. “We’re too good of a football team to hang our heads. Trying to bounce back against a team like Pittsburgh is no picnic, but our guys will be ready.
The Broncos have allowed 28 points and more than 350 yards a game.
1975 game 4: The Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) vs the Denver Broncos (2-1)
The Broncos struck first with a 22-yard field goal. Their following kick-off was returned 21 yards to the Steelers 42 by Dave Brown. From there, Terry Bradshaw, recovered from his finger injury, took just four plays to give Pittsburgh the lead.
A 43-yard touchdown pass to Lynn Swann completed the series and ignited the team’s offense. The Steelers defense stopped Denver, so on their second possession, the Steelers were then able to drive 61 yards with six plays
Swann was again the go to man. He was going stride for stride with a Bronco’s defensive back when Bradshaw flipped a 9-yard pass. The two players bumped and Swann went into the air, slapped the ball with one hand and then caught it on the way down. An official called pass interference on Denver highlighting how good the catch was.
“The finest catch I’ve ever seen,” was the praise offered by coach Noll. When the Steelers defense again stopped the Broncos, Pittsburgh increased their lead to 17-3 with a Roy Gerela field goal from 39 yards.
Two Denver field goals at the end of the second period reduced their deficit.
In an attempt to come back into the game, Denver attempted an onside kick at the beginning of the second half. John Banaszak recovered it for Pittsburgh, but fumbles from Franco Harris and Larry Brown meant the Steelers couldn’t make any progress in the third quarter.
Noll turned conservative with his play-calling as he attempted to seal the win, spurring field goal attempts to back his opponents up and relying on his defense. A Gerela 28-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright, but managed to find its way in and seal the victory 20-9.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 20 vs the Denver Broncos 9
Three Rivers Stadium, October 11th 1975; 38,987
Passing: Bradshaw 16-26-191-2 TD-0 Int
Rushing: Harris 21-69, Bleier 14-53, Bradshaw 3-15, Swann 1-0
Receiving: Brown 1-27, Swann 2-52, Lewis 2-45, Stallworth 3-31, Harris 4-20, Bleier 4-16
“We’re not doing things well as a team,” Noll said after the game. “We’ve not reached a point where 43 guys are churning, which is where we have to be. It’s like we’re on a plateau right now.”
The coach went on to praise the Steelers' special teams for dictating field position. "Except for the blocked punt, they were great. We made a lot of heads-up plays that kept Denver bottled up in their own territory."
THE 1975 STEELERS PASSING GAME
After four games, Terry Bradshaw was leading the NFL in passing with a completion rate of 67.1% with five touchdowns and only one interception.
After four games, the Steelers have averaged 30 points a game (against 21.8 for 1974), 406 yards per game (312.5 for 1974), and most significantly 206.2 passing yards per game (139.9 for 1974).
With the apparent change in the Steelers’ philosophy built on a solid running game, Bradshaw observed, “We are seeing different defenses now, so we have had to change our style. Anyways, it always takes the running game longer to jell because it is so much more complicated than the passing game.
I’ve wanted to pass more than I did last year too, so a lot of it has been of my doing. I’ve never had so much confidence in myself or my passing. I’ve never thrown better either. I said at the start of the season that this offense has the potential to score a ton of points and I meant it. I think we’re proving it.
A lot of things go into making the passing game work so well. My confidence is a big thing, but we’re thrown a lot to our backs, our receivers have made some great catches, and our receivers, especially Lynn Swann, have broken up some possible interceptions when I’ve thrown a bad pass.
Another big thing is that guys like Swann, John Stallworth and Larry Brown have more experience as regulars now. They’ve been exposed to pressure and they’ve learnt how to react. They have confidence in themselves now and their performance on every play shows it.”
The Steelers next opponents, the Chicago Bears have the worst pass defense in the National Conference and the 20 points handicap confirmed what the fans expected from the game.
1975 game 5: The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) vs the Chicago Bears (1-3)
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bears took the lead with a 32-yard field goal in the second and then fell apart. Frenchy Fuqua noticed the Bears weren’t covering Donnie Shell on a punt so tipped the wink to Bobby Walden (picture left). The punter took full advantage, passing to the open player and getting the first down.
A Chicago holding penalty then kept the drive alive again to enable Roy Gerela to tie the game with a 37-yard field goal. A Chicago pass interference penalty on Steeler Reggie Garrett then provided the opportunity for Reggie Harrison to run in a touchdown from one yard.
The 10-3 Steelers lead at halftime was more from the assistance from the Bears than from their own efforts. Pittsburgh’s 16 running plays produced just 37 yards.
Coach Noll’s halftime team talk would have been an interesting one as the second half proved to be a different story for the Steelers as they began to rack up the yards.
Pittsburgh increased their lead with an 18-yard field goal and then were gifted outstanding field position when their opponents fumbled the kick-off. Five plays later, Franco Harris ran in the touchdown from the two for a 20-3 score line.
In the final period, Bradshaw led his team on scoring drives of 55 and 60 yards. Rocky Bleier completed the first series with a 3-yard touchdown before Bradshaw finished the points collection with his 1-yard touchdown run.
The Bears’ sad day was complete when they thought they had scored on the final play. The umpire signalled a touchdown, but was overruled by the referee who marked the ball dead at the one.
The Chicago player didn’t know he hadn’t scored until after the game. “They didn’t give me anything. I earned it,” Mike Adamie complained. “All you gotta do is get down to the line and I got over it.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers 34 vs the Chicago Bears 3
Three Rivers Stadium, October 19th 1975; 47,579
Passing: Bradshaw 11-22-146
Rushing: Bleier 11-44-1TD, Fuqua 7-38, Harrison 5-11-1TD, Harris 17-41-1TD, Collier 4-12, Bradshaw 3-11-1TD
Receiving: Swann 4-62, Shell 1-20, Lewis 1-21, Grossman 1-17, Fuqua 1-11, Garett 3-32, Harris 1-3
Cincinnati 5 0
“We were not happy with the first half,” Noll offered. “You can’t play that kind of football and expect to survive in the NFL. You’ll wind up with a team on the injured reserve list.”
“We should be intense right now,” said Harris. “This is the season. We’re not where we should be.”
“A couple of miles away from where we want to be,” observed Andy Russell on the Steelers defense.
CINCINNATI ON TOP OF AFC CENTRAL
The Steelers were 4-1 after five games of the 1975 season, but were not guaranteed to make the playoffs. They were in a very competition division. Having won five straight, the Bengals were off to their best start in franchise history. With an easy looking schedule ahead, Cincinnati appeared to be a lively contender to be division champions.
It will be down to the Steelers to win both their games against the Bengals if they wanted their third consecutive division title. Sitting in for coach Noll at his weekly press conference, defensive co-ordinator Bud Carson candidly observed, “Everyone wants to compare what we’re doing now with what we did in the playoffs last year and that’s ridiculous.
I think Chuck summed it up well when he said we’re playing a lot better now than we were at this time last year,” he added. The facts supported the latter comment. In their five games, the Steelers had scored 42 more points and allowed 35 fewer.
If the Pittsburgh had improved, then so had their division rivals. Cincinnati and Houston looked nothing like the strugglers of 1974. Chuck Noll was in New York testifying in the ongoing law suit brought by the Players Association against the NFL.
1975 game 6: The Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) at the Green Bay Packers (1-4)
A strong wind influenced each team’s game plan. For the Steelers, it meant Rocky Bleier coming into his own. With Pittsburgh focusing on their ground game, it saw success for Rocky Bleier as he notched up 75 yards on 14 carries in the first quarter.
45 of those yards were accumulated on a 15-play, 70-yard drive that finished with Roy Gerela’s field goal kicked from 19 yards on the final play of the first quarter.
The Packers replied with a 12-play, 66-yard touchdown drive of their own that was kept alive by four Steeler penalties (including an unsportsmanlike against Chuck Noll). Joe Greene blocked the extra point.
On the Green Bay’s subsequent kick-off, Mike Collier returned the ball 94 yards for a touchdown that returned the lead to Pittsburgh. With just ten seconds remaining in the half, Gerela’s second 19-yard field goal increased the lead to 13-6.
In the third quarter, the Packers tied the game with a 5-yard touchdown catch and going into the final period, the game was evenly balanced. Bleier tried to undo all his good work with two fumbles, but then contributed 29 yards on a Steelers drive that enabled Gerela to kick the game winning field goal from 29 yards with a little over a minute remaining.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 16 at the San Diego Chargers 13
Milwaukee Stadium, October 26th 1975; 52,815
Passing: Bradshaw 12-22-84, Gilliam 1-0-0
Rushing: Bleier 35-163, Fuqua 13-52, Bradshaw 3-17, Harris 8-16
Receiving: Garrett 4-38, Swann 3-25, L. Brown 1-9, Bleier 2-7, Fuqua 2-5
“That wind was too strong and too tricky to figure out,” said Terry Bradshaw. “I was relieved when Rocky made big gains on the first two plays we made (each of 7 yards). That got our running game going and meant I wouldn’t have to throw too often.”
On Bleier’s contribution, Bradshaw added, “The Packers had shown us on film that they could take everything our fullbacks do best. So, even going in, we knew Rocky figured big in our plans. But this big… we would have never thought that.”
Rocky Bleier archived his first 100-yard game in the NFL.
THE ALTERNATE 1975 OFFENSIVE LINE
With the Steelers running game dominating their victory in Green Bay, Pittsburgh’s offensive line came in for scrutiny. The interest revolved around the Steelers scheme of alternating five linemen at three positions, the two guards and the center slots.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette highlighted that the linchpin of the system was Jim Clack, who plays the first and third quarters at left guard and moves over to right guard in the fourth period.
Sam Davis plays left guard in the second and fourth quarters while Gerry Mullins is right guard in the first three quarters and then sits out the final period, except when he goes back in on goal offense at tight end.
In addition, Ray Mansfield (picture left) plays the first and third quarters at center with Mike Webster taking over that spot in the second and fourth periods.
The most unusual part of the shuffling is the playing of Clack on the left side for two quarters and on the right side for one. “I don’t know anybody else around the league who does it,” Clack said.
The system is the creation of the Steelers offensive line coach, Dan Radakovich, who insists his linemen are of “equal ability” and he wants them all to have playing time.
“I don’t know of anybody who alternates players as much as I do,” Radakovich admits. He feels if he can’t choose one player over another, the best choice is to alternate them.
The 248 rushing yards gained in their victory over Green Bay was confirmation the system was working. “We did a lot of pulling last week so it probably helped us because we were rested,” Clack observed.
“This has been a busy week because we’re putting in a lot of new stuff for Cincinnati and I have to get it on both, the left and the right sides,” Clack added. “Cincinnati has a lot of good people and they do some things our defense does.”
1975 game 7: The Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1) at the Cincinnati Bengals (6-0)
The Steelers dominated the game from the first play when Dwight White sacked Ken Anderson, forcing the Bengals’ quarterback out of the game for a couple of plays. With both defenses playing well, the first score went to Cincinnati with a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter.
The Steelers came back in the second with a drive that saw Franco Harris gain 53 yards on 5 carries enabling Roy Gerela to kick a field goal from 42 yards. With less than a minute remaining in the half, the Steelers began their final series from their own 47.
They were moving the ball in an attempt to get into position for a field goal attempt. When the Bengals’ player covering Lynn Swann fell down, it allowed Swann to get open to catch a 37-yard touchdown pass and put Pittsburgh 10-3 ahead.
On their first series of the second half, the Steelers went 70 yards in 10 plays, finishing with Rocky Bleier’s touchdown run from the three.
The Steelers were dominating on both sides of the ball and before the end of the quarter, Terry Bradshaw led another scoring drive with four straight completions. The last one to Swann of 25 yards put another six points on the board as Gerela’s point after attempt failed, hitting the right upright.
With the Steelers leading 23-3 as the game went into the final period, the Bengals began to show why they were division leaders. Anderson hit five in a row, throwing a 34-yard touchdown pass that reduced the deficit.
The Steelers focus began to stray as they gave up a delay of game penalty on a third and one and then Swann’s completion on Cincinnati’s three was called back for a holding penalty.
After seeing a Jack Ham interception nullified by another Steelers’ holding penalty, Anderson took advantage of these mistakes and took his team on another touchdown drive. The Steelers’ twenty points lead had now been reduced to seven.
Mike Wagner noted, “We had got to the point where the situation was urgent. We had to do something. Our offense was stalled and our defense wasn’t doing the job. Nobody was giving up, but we had to stop them.
With 7:17 left in the game, the Bengals started a series from their 20. After moving the ball to the Steelers’ 25, on a third down pass attempt, Wagner intercepted and returned it to the Bengals’ 18. Four plays later, Bradshaw’s 1-yard touchdown run gave the Steelers a 30-17 lead.
The Bengals fought back with Anderson’s 22-yard touchdown pass, but time expired on the play and the Pittsburgh finished the day sitting on top of the division – alongside Cincinnati and Houston.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 30 at the Cincinnati Bengals 24
Riverfront Stadium, November 2nd 1975; 58,418
Passing: Bradshaw 13-24-164-2TD
Rushing: Harris 27-157, Collier 1-23, Harrison 2-7, Bleier 11-38, Fuqua 4-11, Bradshaw 2-3
Receiving: Swann 6-116, Garrett 3-24, L. Brown 1-13, Fuqua 1-11, Harris 2-0
With another 100 yard game, Franco Harris said, “This is the best I’ve felt since the Cleveland game. I wanted this one very badly today. I could do more cutting and my lateral movement was better.”
Joe Greene observed, “The whole game today can be summed up in one word – the secondary. They gave us time to get to the quarterback and took away a lot of the things they like to do.
The 1975 Steelers games 8-14>>>