Super Bowl IX: Steelers vs. Vikings
1974 Steelers Season
Regular season record: 10-3-1
Divisional playoff: Steelers 32, Bills 14
AFC championship: Steelers 24, Raiders 13
Super Bowl: Steelers 16, Vikings 6 The 1974 Vikings
In 1974, the NFC champion Vikings were still stinging from their Super Bowl defeat the year before. The Vikings appeared in four Super Bowls between 1969 and 1976 and lost them all. However, they were also one of the most dominant NFC teams of the ’70s, and between 1968 and 1980, they won their division every year but two. In 1974, they finished with a 10–4 regular season record and then defeated the Cardinals and the Rams on their way to a Super Bowl meeting with the Steelers.
Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton led the Vikings’ offense and had earned a Pro Bowl nomination for his performance in the regular season. On the other side of the ball, their “Purple People Eaters” on the defensive line—led by defensive tackle Alan Page and defensive end Carl Eller—held opponents under 200 total points for the entire season.
The Vikings would be a challenge for a young and inexperienced Steelers squad.
Super Bowl IX
In 1974, the Steelers relied heavily on their running game and their Steel Curtain defense anchored by defensive tackle Joe Greene, one of the greatest Steelers of all time. Fullback Franco Harris had turned in a 1,000-yard performance during the regular season and made the Pro Bowl. At quarterback, Terry Bradshaw had lost his starting job to Joe Gilliam during the regular season but regained it by the time the postseason rolled around. To beat the Vikings, the Steelers would need to turn the game into a defensive slugfest by shutting down Tarkenton.
The Steelers got the game they needed. The first quarter ended scoreless, with both quarterbacks taking a bruising—neither offense was rushing the ball effectively. The Steelers got on the board midway through the second quarter, when Tarkenton fell on a fumble in his end zone for a safety.
The Vikings’ return man fumbled the second-half kickoff, and Harris and the Steelers’ offensive line began to take over. A nine-yard touchdown run put Pittsburgh up 9–0.
Early in the fourth quarter, Vikings defensive back Terry Brown recovered a blocked Steelers punt and scored. But the Steelers’ running game plodded on, with fullback Harris and halfback Rocky Bleier breaking off gains in small- and medium-sized chunks. Pittsburgh closed out the scoring with 3:38 left on the clock when Bradshaw tossed to tight end Larry Brown for a four-yard touchdown.
By the time the clock ran out, the Steelers were ahead 16–6 and had won their first-ever Super Bowl.
MVP and Notable Performers
Fullback Franco Harris took home the MVP award after running for 158 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries.
Halfback Rocky Bleier ran for 65 yards on 17 carries.
Pittsburgh’s defense held the Vikings to a mere 119 total yards and forced five turnovers.
Super Bowl X: Steelers vs. Cowboys
1975 Steelers Season
Regular season record: 12–2
Divisional playoff: Steelers 28, Colts 10
AFC championship: Steelers 16, Raiders 10
Super Bowl: Steelers 21, Cowboys 17 The 1975 Cowboys
The NFC champion Cowboys finished the regular season with a 10–4 record and then dispatched the Vikings and the Rams in the playoffs. Even though the Steelers were defending champs, the Cowboys were a more experienced team when it came to big games. They had won the Super Bowl in 1971 and lost it in 1970. Between 1966 and 1975, they had appeared in the NFC championship game seven times.
Navy veteran Roger Staubach led the Cowboys at quarterback and made the Pro Bowl during the regular season. Defensive ends Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Harvey Martin and defensive tackle Randy White terrorized quarterbacks as part of Dallas’s Doomsday Defense. Super Bowl X would be the opening skirmish between two franchises that would battle for the title of “Team of the ‘70s.”
Super Bowl X
Dallas struck first after Pittsburgh punter Bobby Walden mishandled a snap and gave the Cowboys prime field position. Staubach hit wide receiver Drew Pearson with a 29-yard touchdown pass. The Steelers responded on their next possession with a scoring drive that culminated in a seven-yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw to tight end Randy Grossman. The first quarter ended with the score tied at seven.
Dallas scored quickly in the second quarter with a 36-yard field goal by Toni Fritsch, but the rest of the second quarter was dominated by defense. The teams traded punts several times and failed to move the ball. The Steelers managed to claw their way into field goal range with seconds left in the half, but kicker Roy Gerela missed from 36 yards.
Again the teams traded punts in the third quarter before the Steelers managed to return Gerela to field goal range. Again he missed, but this time caused a chain of events that arguably altered the momentum of the game. Cowboys safety Cliff Harris patted Gerela on the helmet and taunted him after the play, drawing the attention of ill-tempered Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert. Enraged, Lambert grabbed Harris and chucked him to the turf. It was a minor scuffle that sent a major message: the Steelers were done being pushed around.
The Steelers blocked a punt through the back of the Cowboys’ end zone in the fourth quarter for a safety, then took the ensuing free kick and marched down the field for a field goal. Steelers safety Mike Wagner picked off Staubach on the next Cowboys possession, and again Gerela put the ball through the uprights for three points.
The Steelers’ final score of the day came on a 64-yard pass from Bradshaw to wideout Lynn Swann. Dallas answered with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Staubach to Percy Howard, but it wasn’t enough. When the clock ran out, the Steelers were ahead 21–17.
MVP and Notable Performers
Wide receiver Lynn Swann earned the MVP award for his four receptions, 161 yards, and a touchdown.
QB Terry Bradshaw threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive end L.C. Greenwood racked up four sacks in the game.
Super Bowl XIII: Steelers vs. Cowboys
1978 Steelers Season
Regular season record: 14–2
Divisional playoff: Steelers 33, Broncos 10
AFC championship: Steelers 34, Oilers 5
Super Bowl: Steelers 35, Cowboys 31 The 1978 Cowboys
The Cowboys returned to the Super Bowl in 1977 and defeated the Broncos, and in 1978 they won another NFC championship. They had been dubbed “America’s Team” and were primed for their second straight Super Bowl appearance and another showdown with the Steelers.
Staubach and the Doomsday Defense were back, but the Cowboys had added some major offensive weapons since the 1975 season. Running back Tony Dorsett had won a Heisman Trophy at Pitt in 1976, and by his second year in the NFL, he had established himself as one of the best backs in the league. He was fast, elusive, and tougher than his size would suggest. By 1978, Staubach had another skilled receiver to complement Drew Pearson as well: Tony Hill hauled in 46 passes during the regular season and made the Pro Bowl.
While some of the names remained, this was not the same Cowboys team the Steelers had defeated in Super Bowl X. To win Super Bowl XIII, the Steelers were going to need to rely on more than their defense and running game. Fortunately, Pittsburgh had evolved as well.
Super Bowl XIII
By 1978, the Steelers had taken a huge step forward. Bradshaw, once a game manager who performed his best in the biggest games, had morphed into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He threw for over 2,900 yards and 28 touchdowns during the regular season. In the 1978 season, he made his first and only All-Pro team, earned the NFL MVP award, and won the Bert Bell Award for NFL Player of the Year. Franco Harris still dominated on the ground, and the Steel Curtain defense ranked first in the NFL for points allowed.
Super Bowl XIII was a showdown of titans, and those expecting high drama were not disappointed. Bradshaw and Staubach both fired touchdown passes in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Cowboys linebacker Mike Hegman scooped up a Bradshaw fumble and ran it back 37 yards for a touchdown. Bradshaw responded on the next series by hitting John Stallworth with a 75-yard scoring bomb. The teams staggered into the locker rooms at halftime with the Steelers ahead 21–14.
The pace slowed in the third quarter as the teams traded punts. The Cowboys got on the board once more with a 27-yard Rafael Septien field goal. The fourth quarter started with a successful Steelers drive that chewed up the clock and culminated in a Franco Harris touchdown run. Dallas fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Bradshaw hit Swann on the next play for an 18-yard touchdown pass.
The Steelers had scored two touchdowns in less than a minute and led the Cowboys 35–17 with 6:51 left in the game. But the Cowboys came storming back. Staubach marched his team downfield and scored with a seven-yard pass to tight end Billy Joe DuPree. Dallas recovered the onside kick, and again Staubach willed his team down the field as the clock ticked. Wide receiver Butch Johnson hauled in a touchdown pass with 22 seconds left in the game.
Another onside kick attempt failed, and the Steelers eked out one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played with a 35–31 win. Today, many Steelers fans regard this game as the greatest win in team history.
MVP and Notable Performers
QB Terry Bradshaw won MVP after throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns.
Wide receiver Lynn Swann caught seven passes for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Receiver John Stallworth hauled in three passes for 115 years and two touchdowns.
Super Bowl XIV: Steelers vs. Rams
1979 Steelers Season
Regular season record: 12–4
Divisional playoff: Steelers 34, Dolphins 14
AFC championship: Steelers 27, Oilers 13
Super Bowl: Steelers 31, Rams 19 The 1979 Rams
The Rams of the 1970s were somewhat of a low-key powerhouse. They are seldom mentioned in “team of the decade” discussions, even though they won their division every year from 1973 to ’79 and went to the NFC championship game in five of those seasons. Only the dominance of the Cowboys and Vikings kept them from reaching the big game more often.
But reach the big game they did in 1979. After finishing 9–7 in the regular season, they defeated the Cowboys and the Buccaneers in the playoffs and earned the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Rams starting quarterback Pat Haden led the team to a 5–5 record before breaking his finger. Backup Vince Ferragamo stepped in and posted a 4–1 record, good enough to get Los Angeles into the playoffs. On the ground, the Rams relied on halfback Wendell Tyler and fullback Cullen Bryant. But it was the Rams’ defense that presented the most challenge for the Steelers, with All-Pros Jack Youngblood and Larry Brooks, plus linebacker Jim Youngblood and safety Nolan Cromwell.
Super Bowl XIV
The Steelers were in their prime in 1979. Though the team had struggled with injuries during the regular season, by the time the Super Bowl kicked off, all hands were on deck. Bradshaw had thrown for an incredible 3,724 yards during the regular season. Harris had rushed for 1,186 yards and 11 touchdowns. Receiver John Stallworth had hauled in 70 catches for over 1,100 yards and made his first All-Pro team. A veteran defense, packed with future Steelers Hall of Famers, stood ready to demolish an underdog Rams offense.
Most football pundits and oddsmakers agreed: By the time halftime came around, the Steelers were thought to be shoo-ins for their fourth Super Bowl ring. But things didn’t go quite as planned. Like a slingshot blow to Goliath’s head, the Rams scored the first touchdown of the game after holding the mighty Steelers to a field goal on their first possession. Pittsburgh countered with a Franco Harris touchdown dive in the second quarter. The Rams put together a field-goal drive, forced a Steelers punt, and then plodded down the field for one more field goal. At halftime, the Rams led the Steelers 13–10.
Bradshaw connected with Swann on a 47-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter to put Pittsburgh ahead. Undaunted, the Rams pulled a trick out of their helmets on the next possession when halfback Lawrence McCutcheon threw to wide receiver Ron Smith for a touchdown. Frank Corral missed the extra point, and the third quarter ended with the score 19–17, Rams.
One could only imagine the discussions on the Pittsburgh sidelines as the fourth quarter began. Whatever was said, the Steelers responded. Bradshaw connected with Stallworth on a 73-yard scoring pass. Later in the quarter, linebacker Jack Lambert intercepted Ferragamo as Los Angeles moved the ball into Pittsburgh territory. The Steelers closed out the game by plowing over an exhausted Rams defense with running backs Harris, Rocky Bleier, and Sydney Thornton. Harris plunged into the end zone for the final score of the game with 1:49 left on the clock.
Though the Rams had proven that they were worthy opponents, the Steelers had won their fourth Super Bowl in six years with a final score of 31–19.
MVP and Notable Performers
QB Terry Bradshaw took home his second-straight Super Bowl MVP award, this time by passing for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Receiver John Stallworth caught three passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
Wide receiver Lynn Swann caught five passes for 79 yards and one score.
Super Bowl XL: Steelers vs. Seahawks
2005 Steelers Season
Regular season record: 11–5
Wild Card playoff: Steelers 31, Bengals 17
Divisional playoff: Steelers 21, Colts 18
AFC championship: Steelers 34, Broncos 17
Super Bowl: Steelers 21, Seahawks 10 The 2005 Seahawks
In 2005, the NFC champion Seahawks were the highest-scoring offense in the NFL. They dominated in the regular season with a 13–3 record and then defeated Washington and Carolina in the playoffs. The Seahawks were a fitting opponent for the underdog Steelers who had made the playoffs as a wild-card team and reached the Super Bowl by defeating the Colts, Broncos, and Bengals, arguably the three best teams in the AFC.
Seattle’s offense featured All-Pro backs Shaun Alexander and Mack Strong as well as Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Alexander had rushed for an impressive 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season behind the bone-crushing blocking of Strong and a powerful Seattle offensive line. They would face a Pittsburgh defense that was ranked third in the NFL against the run and fourth in points against.
Super Bowl XL came down to the unstoppable force of the Seahawks’ rushing attack versus the immovable object of the Steelers’ defense.
Super Bowl XL
Today, Ben Roethlisberger is known as one of the top quarterbacks in Steelers history, but back in 2005, he was a mistake-prone, second-year quarterback who needed a lot of support from a strong Steelers rushing attack and a stingy defense. The running game and the defense both needed to step up as they had in the AFC playoffs to give Pittsburgh a shot at winning the Super Bowl.
Both teams struggled to move the ball in the first quarter, until Seattle managed a 47-yard field goal by kicker Josh Brown. Defense dominated the second quarter as well, until Roethlisberger put together a string of completions to receivers Hines Ward and Cedric Wilson that put the ball on the Seahawks’ one-yard line. The Seahawks stopped Bettis twice, then Roethlisberger carried the ball around left end on third down for the score. It was a controversial play, but after review, the touchdown stood. The Steelers took a 7–3 lead into halftime.
On the second play of the third quarter, Steelers running back Willie Parker blasted off right tackle and outran the Seahawks’ defense for a record-setting 75-yard touchdown run. This put Pittsburgh up 14–3, but Seattle stormed back later in the quarter when Hasselbeck connected with tight end Jerramy Stevens for a 16-yard touchdown pass.
With 9:44 left in the game and holding a tenuous 14–10 lead, the Steelers hammered the final nail in the coffin. On first down and with the ball on the Seattle 43-yard line, Parker took a pitch and started left, then handed off to wide receiver Antwaan Randle El on a reverse. As he raced around right end, Randle El tossed a deep pass without breaking stride. Receiver Hines Ward hauled it in for a spectacular gadget-play touchdown.
When the clock ran down to zero, the Steelers had won their fifth Super Bowl in franchise history with a score of 21–10.
MVP and Notable Performers
The MVP award went to wide receiver Hines Ward. He caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Willie Parker set a record for the longest run in Super Bowl history (75 yards) and finished the day with 93 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
The Steelers’ defense sacked Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck three times.
Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers vs. Cardinals
2008 Steelers Season
Regular season record: 12–4
Divisional playoff: Steelers 35, Chargers 24
AFC championship: Steelers 23, Ravens 14
Super Bowl: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23 The 2008 Cardinals
In the decades before 2008, the Cardinals had suffered as one of the worst teams in the NFL. Formerly hailing from Phoenix, and before that making their home in St. Louis and Chicago, “the Cards” took their lumps, year after year. That changed in 2007 when former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt took over as head coach. Within a year, the Cardinals had won their division, defeated the Falcons, Panthers, and Eagles in the playoffs, and made it to the Super Bowl.
Arizona had added some serious offensive firepower in the years leading up to their Super Bowl appearance. In 2004, they drafted Larry Fitzgerald, a wide receiver who would become one of the best in NFL history. In 2008, he had earned All-Pro honors by hauling in 96 passes for 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns. Fellow receivers Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston had caught 89 and 77 passes respectively, both for over 1,000 yards. At the origin of those passes was Kurt Warner, an aging but still-dangerous quarterback who had been a key part of the Super Bowl-winning Rams team nearly a decade earlier.
Warner was a leader and a proven champion, and he’d thrown for over 4,500 yards in 2008. To stop the Arizona passing attack would take everything Pittsburgh had.
Super Bowl XLIII
In 2008, the Steelers team that won the Super Bowl in 2005 remained largely intact, but with a handful of notable changes. Antwaan Randle El had left for Washington, replaced at wide receiver by speedy Santonio Holmes. Linebacker Joey Porter was gone as well, as was defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen, safety Chris Hope and fullback Dan Kreider.
Most significantly, Coach Bill Cowher had retired in 2006. He had taken over for the legendary Chuck Noll in 1992. After 15 seasons, Cowher had become a legend himself and played a key role in Steelers history. For the 2007 season, Mike Tomlin—another young and fiery first-time head coach—took over.
Super Bowl XLIII started slowly, but it would turn into one of the most exciting ever played. The Steelers opened the scoring with an 18-yard Jeff Reed field goal, the only points of the first quarter for either team. Early in the second quarter, the Steelers put together a drive that ended with a touchdown run by back Gary Russell. Warner and the Cardinals answered with a touchdown drive of their own, culminating in a one-yard scoring pass to tight end Ben Patrick.
The teams traded punts, and just before the two-minute warning, Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby intercepted Roethlisberger at Pittsburgh’s 34-yard line. Warner moved his team down to the Steelers’ one-yard line and, with seconds to go in the half, seemed poised to score. What happened next has gone down as one of the most unbelievable plays in Super Bowl history.
With 18 seconds on the clock, Warner took a shotgun snap and fired the ball left to a receiver running a slant route. It’s a common goal-line play and a smart call when you have big-bodied receivers like Boldin and Fitzgerald who can outmuscle defenders for inside position. But Steelers linebacker James Harrison, one of the most feared pass rushers in the league, unexpectedly dropped into coverage and intercepted Warner’s pass.
Harrison took off for the Cardinals’ goal line, 100 yards away. A convoy of Steelers ran interference, preventing the Cardinals from getting a hand on the big man as he plodded down the field. Cardinals wide receivers Fitzgerald and Breaston finally caught him at the one, and the trio collapsed into the end zone for a Steelers touchdown as time expired.
Instead of going into halftime ahead 14–10, Arizona was down 17–7. Harrison’s interception and run meant a 14-point swing. Jeff Reed added another field goal near the end of the third quarter to put the Steelers up 20–7. The Steelers seemed on their way to wrapping up another Super Bowl victory, but Kurt Warner and the Cardinals weren’t going to go away quietly. The championship’s fourth quarter turned out to be one for the ages.
Warner marched his team downfield and scored with 7:41 left on the clock, making the score 20–14. The Steelers needed first downs but could do nothing with their next possession. The Cardinals took over, and the Steelers’ defense held, forcing a punt. Arizona punter Ben Graham pinned Pittsburgh to their one-yard line.
Three plays later, Steelers center Justin Hartwig was called for holding. Because the penalty occured in the end zone, this resulted in a safety and a free kick coming Arizona’s way. Warner and Fitzgerald made the Steelers pay with a 64-yard scoring strike. With 2:47 left in the game, the Steelers were suddenly down 23–20. Their lead, and a sure victory, had vanished.
Roethlisberger went to work, chipping away yardage with short passes to Holmes and wide receiver Nate Washington. Valuable seconds ticked away, but the Steelers were moving the ball. They eventually found themselves with first and goal on the Cardinals’ six-yard line and 48 seconds on the clock. A touchdown pass went through Holmes’s hands on first down. On second down, Roethlisberger came back to him once more with a perfectly placed ball, and Holmes made an incredible catch for the score.
The Steelers were ahead 27–23. But, Warner still had 42 seconds to work with. After a couple of completions that put the Cardinals in Steelers territory, it seemed he still had some magic left. But, with 15 seconds on the clock, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley forced a Warner fumble, ending the game and ensuring a Steelers victory.
MVP and Notable Performers
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes earned the MVP award by making a spectacular, game-winning catch and hauling in nine total passes for 131 yards and a score.
Cardinals QB Kurt Warner threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns.
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
QB Ben Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to three Super Bowls—so far.
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