The BTSC Delorean: Looking back at the full catalog of AFC Divisional Games, 1940s & 1970s edition21 min read
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By: Bryan Anthony Davis
Take a look back at every Steelers’ Divisional Playoff Game from the 1970s, and even the lone offering from the 1940s.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have only played 59 Postseason Games in in their history, and they all elicit memories in Steelers fans both good and bad. In those contests, the Steelers have played 26 divisional contest and are 16-10 in those games and six of those wins led to a Super Bowl victories. BTSC takes a look back at the entire catalog of Steelers Divisional Games in Part 1 of a three-part series. In the 1947 game, the Steelers weren’t ready for the postseason and fell 21-0. It took them 25 years to actually be ready. When they finally were, it was magic as the Steelers went an incredible 6-2 in the decade in the divisional round.
Here’s a brief tale of the tape of the 1970s Steelers in AFC Divisional Playoff Games:
Points: Steelers 215, Opponents 136
Home Points: Steelers 140, Opponents 55
Away Points: Steelers 75, Opponents 81
Wins: Steelers 6, Opponents 2
Home Record: Steelers 5, Opponents 0
Road Record: Steelers 1, Opponents 2
Biggest Win Margin: 26 – Steelers 40, Colts 14 (December 19, 1976)
Biggest Loss Margin: 19 – Raiders 33, Steelers 14 (December 22, 1973)
Closest Game: 6 – Steelers 13, Raiders 6 (December 23, 1972)
Overtime Games: None
December 21, 1947 – Philadelphia Eagles 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 0 (1947 NFL Divisional Playoff Game)
In the first postseason game ever for either of the 8-4 Keystone State franchises, the Eastern Division was up for grabs at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh that day. The Eagles, coached by the legendary Earle “Greasy” Neale featured quarterback Tommy Thompson, halfback Steve Van Buren and a tough defense. To counter, Head Coach Jock Sutherland’s Steelers came in with tailback Johnny Clement and reliable receiver in end Val Jansante. But there was dissension in the ranks with the Steelers players rankled due to not getting extra pay. The Eagles got on the board first when rookie Pete Pihos blocked Bob Cifers’ punt, giving Philly the ball at the Pittsburgh 14. To capitalize, Thompson threw to Steve Van Buren for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with Cliff Patton’s point after. In the second quarter, it was Thompson again throwing, this time, to Black Jack Ferrante for a 25-yard scoring connection and a 14-0 advantage that lasted to the half. With Thompson injured in the second half, the Eagles kept the ball largely on the ground, but special teams stepped up when Bosh Pritchard took a punt and returned it 79 yards to glory and a 21-0 lead. Late in the third quarter, the Steelers got all the way down to the Philadelphia nine on positive plays by Clement, Cifers, Tony Compagno and Elbie Nickel. but Clement fumbled his pass attempt, and the Steelers turned the ball over and downs. That was it for the Steelers, as their cross-state rivals controlled the clock the rest of the way for the 21-0 triumph. Philadelphia went on to win the NFL title over the Chicago Cardinals, while the Steelers would wait another 24 years to play in the postseason.
December 23, 1972 – Pittsburgh Steelers 13, Oakland Raiders 7 (1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)
Jack Fleming on the Steelers radio broadcast 50 years ago today…
“Hang onto your hats, here come the Steelers out of the huddle. Twenty-two seconds remaining. It’s down to one big play, fourth down and 10 yards to go. Terry Bradshaw at the controls. And Bradshaw….running out of the pocket, looking for somebody to throw to, fires it downfield, and there’s a collision! And it’s caught out of the air! The ball is pulled in by Franco Harris! Harris is going for a touchdown for Pittsburgh!
This is the game that began it all. This was the game that inspired a statue in an airport. This was the game that would give the jovial John Madden fits a conspiracy theory for years, and this was the game that converted Pittsburgh into a football town and turned decades of disappointment into dynasty.
Was this a great game of football excellence? Defensive excellence maybe, as both the Pittsburgh and Oakland defenders allowed no points in the opening 30 minutes. The longest play by the Raiders in the first half was an 11-yard pass play, Andy Russell intercepted Daryle Lamonica, and the Steelers opted out of a Roy Gerela field goal try from the enemy 31-yard line. In a weird bit of foreshadowing, Jack Tatum crashed into Frenchy Fuqua on 4th and 2 for the turnover on downs.
After the intermission, the defensive battle continued but the Steelers did get the game’s first points on the first possession with a field goal of 18 yards by Gerela, Later on in the third, Lamonica was intercepted for the second time in the game, this time by Jack Ham. This gaffe prompted Head Coach John Madden to call for a quarterback change from Lamonica to the lefty, Ken Stabler. It was Terry Bradshaw’s turn for a mistake, as the Blonde Bomber threw a pick in Oakland territory, the Steelers’ only turnover of the game. But Stabler fumbled the ball inside the Oakland 25-yard line, and the Steelers could only drum-up a field goal by Gerela to extend the Steelers’ lead to 6–0. Stabler would, however, successfully lead the silver and black down the field, when he scored the game’s first touchdown on a fourth-quarter drive with a 30-yard touchdown run. The Blanda’s point-after made the score 7–6 with 1:17 left, setting up the scenario that Steelers’ fans and the football world knows well.
The game was different back then as opposed to today’s NFL when a one-point lead is not safe at all with that much time remaining on the clock. Starting from his own 20-yard line, Bradshaw moved the Steelers 20 yards to the 40-yard line with :22 seconds remaining and no time-outs, Head Coach Chuck Noll called a pass play, 66 Circle Option, intended for rookie receiver Barry Pearson. Bradshaw, facing great pressure from Tony Cline and Horace Jones, threw the ball to the Raiders’ 35-yard line, toward Fuqua. The collision just as the ball arrived knocked Fuqua to the Three Rivers Stadium turf and sent the ball sailing backward several yards, end over end. Franco Harris, after initially blocking on the play, had run downfield should TB12 need another option and snagged the sailing ball just before it hit the ground. Harris ran past linebacker Gerald Irons, while linebacker Phil Villapiano, who had been covering Franco, was blocked by tight end John McMakin. Harris stiff-armed to defensive back Jimmy Warren and the 230-pounder trucked in for the score. The touchdown gave the Steelers a 12–7 lead as the black-and-gold faithful stormed the field in jubilation. There was the debate of whether the deflection was a double touch. If Tatum touched the ball first, the play would have been good, but if it was initially deflected off of Fuqua, the play would have been ruled illegal. The officials huddled and it has always been rumored that a television was used as instant replay. Finally, the play was officially deemed a touchdown after over five minutes and Gerela added the ensuing extra point for a 13-7 final. The Steelers would lose the next week in the AFC Championship Game, but a dynasty and culture was forever forged in steel that day.
December 22, 1973 – Oakland Raiders 33, Pittsburgh Steelers 14 (1973 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)
A year after the Steelers arrived and stole victory from the Raiders in the Immaculate Reception Game, Art Rooney’s Steelers were looking to completely mature from pretenders to true contenders. Helmed by Charles Henry Noll, the Pittsburgh pigskin franchise got off to an excellent start by finding themselves victorious by winning eight of their first nine games before a three-game losing streak thwarted their AFC Central Title hopes. The Steelers would get it together to win their final two games against Houston and San Francisco to seize a Wild Card berth with a 10–4 record. Waiting for them on the West Coast were John Madden and his 9-4-1 Oakland Raiders, eager to right what they thought was a whole lot of wrong the year before in that crazy game on December 23.
Oakland led from the very start with a stop on defense and then reeled off a drive of 16 plays behind the passing of Ken Stabler (14/17 passes for 142 yards on the day) and the legs of Marv Hubbard (91 yards and 2 TDs on the day) put the hosts from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum up 7-0 on Hubbard’s 1-yard touchdown run. In the second quarter, the visitors had an opportunity to even things up, but a Terry Bradshaw’s pass attempt was intercepted in Raiders’ territory by Phil Villapiano after a deflection by Otis Sistrunk. The result was a 25-yard field goal off of the legendary, old foot of George Blanda, and a 10-0 advantage. Late in the half, Bradshaw leaned on Preston Pearson and benefited by a 15-yard roughing penalty to advance to the enemy 7. When the Blonde Bomber connected on a 4-yard touchdown connection with Pearson, the score was 10-7 going into intermission.
John Madden’s revenge of Chuck Noll’s black-and-gold visitors swung into full force in the second half. Aided by a roughing penalty on the Steelers this time, a Blanda 31-yard field goal, followed by one of 22 gave the Raiders a 16-7 lead. But the Men of Steel were back in Raiders territory and making a comeback attempt, but on the next play, Willie Brown intercepted a pass from No. 12 and returned it 54 yards to paydirt and a whipping was in progress at 23-7. Said whipping would get worse as George Atkinson was the next man in silver and black to intercept Bradshaw on the following drive returning the ball to his own 37. RB Charlie Smith then took off on a 40-yard run to the Steelers 22, and when the drive stalled, Blanda’s third field goal gave Oakland a commanding 26-7 lead. With 9:12 left in the fourth, Bradshaw would attempt a rally with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Frank Lewis to get a tad closer at 26-14. But Oakland put the game away by putting the ball in the hands of Hubbard, who rushed for 42 yards before topping everything off with a 1-yard run with :14 seconds left on the clock to give Al Davis’ Raiders a 33-14 win.
The loss for the Steelers was a necessary moment of tough growth. The crazy season was documented in Roy Blount Jr.’s 1974 book About Three Bricks Shy of a Load. Many believe that this loss was a springboard to many a win that produced four Super Bowl triumphs starting the next season.
December 22, 1974 – Pittsburgh Steelers 32, Buffalo Bills 14 (1974 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)
Things were starting to get real for the Steelers in their quest for their first championship, but they couldn’t take the visiting O.J. Simpson and the Bills too lightly just three days before Christmas at Three Rivers Stadium. It started out with promise as Mel Blount’s 42-yard return of the opening kick allowed Roy Gerela to kick through the game’s first points. But the Bills Joe Ferguson found his burly tight end Paul Seymour for the score and a 7-3 lead. But then the second quarter came, and the Steelers exploded for 26 points with Terry Bradshaw masterfully driving the Steelers offense. Rocky Bleier’s first touchdown reception of his career came on a textbook route from 27-yards out to but the Steelers ahead. Great catches by Lynn Swann helped set up three Franco Harris rushing scores and the avalanche was on. The Steel Curtain defense chipped in by shutting down O.J. Simpson and the famed Electric Company offense. Simpson did reach the end zone late but was held to a mere 49 yards on 17 carries. The win helped the Steelers find plane tickets to Oakland in their stockings and an eventual first Lombardi Trophy.
To listen to a radio re-broadcast of the game, click HERE
December 27, 1975 – Pittsburgh Steelers 28, Baltimore Colts 10 (1975 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)
The defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers began the playoffs looking to repeat their Super Bowl IX fortune with 11 Pro Bowlers and 7 AP All Pros sporting the black and gold. At 12-2, Chuck Noll’s team was welcoming the 10-4 East Division Baltimore Colts to Three Rivers Stadium. The well-rounded Colts featuring Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell and a stifling defense were coming in red hot winners of 9-straight games. But the Steelers had a new secret weapon that debuted on this day as the Terrible Towel made it’s debut when legendary Steelers’ broadcaster Myron Cope encouraged fans to bring black and gold towels to the game. With players against it and media skeptical of the “gimmick”, Cope accounted in his autobiography that he worried as he saw fewer than a dozen towels while players were going through pre-game warm-ups. But Cope knew it worked when, as he accounted, “The Steelers gathered in their tunnel for introductions, whereupon the crowd exploded—and suddenly, by my estimation, 30,000 Terrible Towels twirled from the fists of fans around the stadium!”
When of those naysayer players, Jack Ham started the scoring when No. 59’s interception set up a touchdown drive highlighted by a 34-yard hookup between Terry Bradshaw and Frank Lewis to pave the way for Franco Harris to break free with an 8-yard scoring run. Again, Ham made an impact on the next series by stunting Jones and drilling the Colts quarterback into the turf where an oncoming J.T. Thomas inadvertently cleated Jones’ right arm forcing Bert from the game. In came Marty Domres under center, and the veteran backup tied up the score with a 5-yard touchdown toss to Glenn Doughty after Lloyd Mumphord picked off Bradshaw and returned the interception 58 yards into Steelers’ territory late in the second quarter. More mistakes from the Steelers led to more Colts points. This time, Harris lost a fumble that was recovered by Nelson Munsey on the Steelers 19. Toni Linhart’s 27-yard field goal followed, and it was the visitors from Charm City with horseshoes on their helmets that enjoyed a 10–7 lead going into intermission.
No. 1 pick Dave Brown continued the turnover follies for the Steeltown home team on the second half kickoff. But a few plays later, one of those All-Pros Mel Blount intercepted a pass and returned it 20 yards to the enemy 7-yard line. From there, Rocky Bleierbulled in with a 7-yard touchdown rush to give the Steelers a 14–10 lead. In the fourth, Bradshaw’s 2-yard run upped the advantage by 11 at 21–10. Marchibroda, who tired of Domres having completed only 2 of 11 passes, went back to the injured Jones. The moved looked to have paid off as Jones immediately hooked up with Doughty on a 58-yard completion to the Steelers 3. But on the next play, Jones went back to pass and the pride of Johnstown, Ham, knocked the ball out of Jones’s grasp. Andy Russell pounced on the loose ball and returned it for then an NFL playoff record 93 yards to the end zone. Even though Sports Illustrated lampooned Russell for what they called the “longest, slowest touchdown ever witnessed” and Steelers Center Ray Mansfield claimed that NBC cut to commercial during the return and came back to catch him score the touchdown. But Russell and the Steelers had the last laugh. Despite losing 5 turnovers, the Steelers forced 3 of them and held the Colts to only 154 total yards of offense, one less than Franco’s output of a whopping 153 rushing yards on the ground.
In the end, the Steelers win gave the Rooney Family and Chuck Noll an opportunity to field a dynasty as they went on to beat Oakland and Dallas on their way to a second Lombardi.
To listen to a radio re-broadcast of the game, click HERE
December 19, 1976 – Pittsburgh Steelers 40, Baltimore Colts 14 (1976 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)
Six days before Christmas in the Year 1976, the Pittsburgh Steelers and their top-ranked NFL defense rolled into Charm City to battle Bert Jones and Baltimore’s top-rated offense for the right to go to the AFC Championship. The Steelers, who had their eyes on an unprecedented three-peat, started the season with a double-Lombardi hangover and started out at 1-4, before going on a roll and finishing the regular season at 10-4. But Chuck Noll’s charges had to go on the road in order to accomplish their desired feats.
B-More kicked off with Earnest Pugh set to receive, but No. 85 let the ball squirt free and was walloped immediately. It could have been a grand disaster for the Steelers, but Frenchy Fuqua fell on the ball for the alert recovery. Bradshaw brought his unit out to the field to face a menacing defense in their own right in the Colts that led the league with 57 sacks. After the 1000-yard duo of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier combined for a mere 2 yards on the first two plays, TB went to the air on third down to Frank Lewis and No. 43 burned the Baltimore defense for 76 yard and the score. It was estimated that the Blonde Bomber, threw the ball 65 yards in the air to glory. In came Roy Gerela, who was dealing with a hamstring ailment, and the veteran kicker missed the point-after. But nonetheless, the Steelers were up 6-0 on their hosts just like that. With a chance to match. Jones would move the ball to midfield and go deep with the home run ball, only to have Mike Wagner intervene and make a leaping interception at the 12 returning it to the Colts 22. After the turnover, the offense took the field without Rocky Bleier, who was sidelined with an injury. With the running game limited, the tandem of Bradshaw to Lewis thrived and set up the resilient Gerela to come on and bury a 45 yarder for a 9-0 advantage. Jones would answer on both runs and passes by Lydell Mitchell, Roosevelt Leaks, Raymond Chester and Roger Carr. Beating J.T. Thomas for 17 yards in the right corner of the end zone, Carr helped his Colts back into the contest by adding 7 points with Toni Linhart’s point after with 1:17 left in the initial quarter.
With the help of Theo Bell’s 60-yard kickoff return, the Steelers get up 16-7 on Reggie Harrison’s 1-yard touchdown run. They could have gotten more after Franco Harris reeled off a 42-yard dash into Colts’ real estate, but Harrison lost a fumble at the Colts 2-yard line. It was just a minor setback though, as the black and gold scored twice in the final minute of the half. with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Lynn Swann and then a Glen Edwards thieved a pass from Jones and returned it 26 yards to set up a 25-yard Gerela field goal to give Pittsburgh a 26-7 halftime lead.
After intermission, the Steelers offense took a huge blow, as Franco joined the Rock on the sideline due to a rib entry. After a gang sack by Ham, Lambert and Green was negated by a holding penalty, Baltimore moved into Steelers’ territory. But on the very next play, Jones completion to Mitchell was jarred loose by Ham, and Andy Russell recovered, but Mitchell was ruled down by contact before he lost the ball. The Steelers were finally about to get the ball back, but David Lee was the recipient of a roughing the kicker penalty on Larry Brown and the Colts retained. The drive finally ended with a turnover on downs at the Steelers 32 and the Steelers with Fuqua and Reggie Harrison, now sharing lead back duties, were moving the chains on the ground and in position for Bradshaw to hit Swann for an 11-yard touchdown pass to make the score 33-7 in the fourth quarter. The Colts would get a 1-yard run by Roosevelt Leaks, but it was all over at this point, especially when Harrison ran for a score of 9-yards to close down the scoring at 40-14. score by Harrison.
The Steelers beating of the Colts was complete with 526 yards of total offense, while limiting Baltimore to only 170. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw went 14 of 18 passes for 267 yards and 3 TDs. His performance gave No. 12 the distinction of having the first perfect 158.3 passer rating in NFL playoff history. Franco racked up 156 total yards on a mere 18 carries 3 receptions, despite that premature exit in the third quarter. But that rib injury would help destroy the Super Bowl three-peat possibilities of possibly the greatest team in Pittsburgh Football history as both Franco and Bleier were unavailable to play in the AFC Championship loss in Oakland.
Although the Steelers championship dreams died that die, the sheer dominance of their performance actually saved lives. Minutes after the conclusion of the game, a small charter plane crashed into the upper deck at Memorial Stadium. There were no deaths or injuries in the accident because Baltimore fans flocked out of the stadium due to the embarrassing play of their beloved Colts.
To watch the full game, click HERE
December 24, 1977 – Denver Broncos 34, Pittsburgh Steelers 21 (1977 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)
The decade of the 1970s in the American Football Conference was dominated mostly by the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers. But another team of that era played fascinating football and it wore bright orange. Yes, the 12-2 Denver Broncos seized the AFC West from their rival Oakland Raiders and were set to battle with a 9-5 Pittsburgh Steelers team that was looking to get back to the Super Bowl after a year removed. They would have to do it in the rarified air of the Rocky Mountains against a team that played a lot tougher than their saccharine-inspired nickname, Orange Crush.
Broncos’ fans were enjoying a Rocky Mountain High early on Christmas Eve as Denver scored first after John Schultz blocked a Steelers punter Rick Engles and recovered the ball on the Steelers 17-yard line to set up a Rob Lytle 7-yard rushing touchdown. The AFC Central Champs responded but first faced a 4th and 1 that Bradshaw converted via a 19-yard reception to Bennie Cunningham. Then when the Steelers need merely a yard to tie the score, they got it when “the bomber” became “The Blonde Sneaker” with a 1-yard rushing touchdown. In the second quarter, Broncos defensive tackle Lyle Alzado forced a Franco Harris miscue, which Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson teamed-up to advance 25 yards to the Pittsburgh 10. When Otis Armstrong took the ball the rest of the way to pay dirt on the next play, the Broncos were celebrating a 14–7 lead. However, the Steelers kept punching back and the jabs came from a John Stallworth 21-yard completion and Harris ripping off a 20-yard blast. and a 1-yard touchdown charge to tie the game at 14-14 with 1:41 left in the half. Jabs also came from the players as late in the first half, Joe Greene and Paul Howard came to blows and “Mean Joe” ended up KO’ing the Broncos offensive lineman with a right uppercut to the chest. A few more scuffles broke out as the teams retreated to their locker rooms at halftime. Even Denver head coach Red Miller tried to go after Steelers’ assistant coach George Perles, but the spry and fearless Chuck Noll cut him off.
In the third quarter, the Broncos found themselves after a drive on Pittsburgh 1-yard line, but a goal-line stand occurred when Jim Jensen was crushed for no gain by Jack Lambert and Jimmy Allen on 4th down. The Steelers could only manage a punt though and Red Miller’s squad got in this time on Craig Morton’s 30-yard touchdown pass to tight end Riley Odoms for a 21-14 advantage. Early in the Quarter No. 4, Pittsburgh managed to tie the game with a 48-yard catch by Stallworth setting up another Bradshaw touchdown pass, this time of the 1-yard variety to tight end Larry Brown. But Denver had enough and, proceeded to put the contest away. To start, Jim Turner broke the deadlock to put the Broncos up 24–21 when his 44-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with 7:17 left on the clock. Then Jackson intercepted a pass from Bradshaw and returned it 32 yards to the Steelers 9, setting up Turner’s 24-yard field goal to make the score 27–21. It was all Jackson, as No. 57 intercepted another Bradshaw pass, putting the Mile High Club in business again at the Steelers 33. Not looking to drain clock, Morton put his foot on the neck of the Steelers with 34-yard touchdown pass to Jack Dolbin with 1:44 left in the game.
Denver’s 34-21 win gave the Broncos a New Year’s Day date to host the AFC Title Game at home, while the Steelers spent their Christmas Eve on a depressing trip back to Pittsburgh with nothing but stockings full of coal. Our heroes in hypocycloids had many opportunities to win this contest and return home for another AFC Championship Game against the Raiders at Three Rivers, but too many turnovers put them on the naughty list and eliminated from the postseason.
To watch the majority of the game, click HERE
December 30, 1978 – Pittsburgh Steelers 33, Denver Broncos 10 (1978 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)
A year after the Steelers’ playoff disaster a year before in Denver, Chuck Noll’s team welcomed the Broncos to the playoffs in the less rarified, and more-polluted air of the Steel City to give Red Miller’s team a taste of Steel Curtain hospitality. Last year’s 34-21 embarrassment was somewhat erased just two weeks earlier in Denver, but the top-seeded Men of Steel needed to vanquish the defending conference champs to legitimately get back on the Super Bowl track after two seasons removed from the NFL Title Game.
The Broncos scored first on a Jim Turner field goal for an early 3-0 advantage. But the black and gold responded in a big way behind Terry Bradshaw (16 of 29 passes for 272 yards and 2 touchdowns) to score on an 8 play/66-yard drive capped off by Franco Harris (105 yards and 2 TDs) and his 1-yard touchdown run. Roy Gerela, who was an adventure when it came to getting the ball through the uprights, missed the extra point and the Steelers only led 6-3. With the defense making a stop, it was Harris once again with an 18-yard rumble to the end zone for his second score to increase the lead to 13-3. In the second quarter, Gerela added a 24-yard field goal. Later on in the quarter, the Steelers were looking at piling on more, but Bradshaw fumbled at midfield with Tom Jackson recovering to pave the way for a Dave Preston’s 3-yard touchdown run to stay in the contest at the score of 16-10. The Steelers had time to add on with Roy’s second field goal of the day to take a 19-10 lead going into intermission.
Denver put together a nice drive of 73 yards in the third quarter, only to be thwarted by the Steel Curtain as Joe Greene blocked a field goal attempt by Jim Turner. In the fourth quarter, Bradshaw started to put the game away by going up top with a 45-yard throw to glory to John Stallworth (10 catches for 156 yards and a TD) to make the scoreboard read 26-10. Then after the kickoff, Dirt Winston recovered a fumble from Denver’s Rick Upchurch to enable Bradshaw’s 38-yard, long ball for a score to Lynn Swann (2 catches for 64 yards and a TD) to set the final at 33-10.
The Steelers offense was on point by scoring 33 and gaining 425 yards of total offense on the famed Orange Crush defense. Really though, it was the Steel Curtain that dominated Denver starting quarterback Craig Morton and his replacement Norris Weese, limiting the visiting Broncs to a mere 218 yards total. Mean Joe and Mad Dog White both sacked Denver qubes twice, and Steve Furness (1), Robin Cole (.5) and Donnie Shell all got in on the party as well. Wintson, Shell and Tony Dungy all chipped in with fumble recoveries. But the big story of the day was the Pittsburgh Steelers win as a collective and affirming themselves once again as the rightful owners of the Lombardi Trophy that the Men of Steel would reclaim a few weeks later against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII.
To watch game highlights, click HERE
To watch the full game, click HERE
December 30, 1979 – Pittsburgh Steelers 34, Miami Dolphins 14 (1979 AFC Divisional Game)
A role-reversal from earlier in the decade was in effect as the Steelers were now the AFC’s finest and the Miami Dolphins were trying to overtake the three-time Super Bowl Champs that were looking to cap off the decade with a fourth. However, the Steelers were facing the No. 2 run defense in the league with a unit that wasn’t as dominant as once was during the 70s. But the passing game would come out smoking, as Terry Bradshaw (21/31, 230 yards, 2 TDs) comes out hot, engineering TD drives on Pittsburgh’s first 3 possessions. Sidney Thornton would start the scoring with a one-yard run in the first, followed by a John Stallworth’s (6 for 86 yards, 1 TD) grab of 17 with a failed point-after by the inconsistent Matt Bahr, and Lynn Swann (3 for 37 yards, 1 TD) and his 20-yard TD reception. Just like that, the Steelers led 20-0 before the first quarter gun sounded. In the second, Bob Griese and the Dolphins drove down to the Steelers 6, but a corner-blitz by J.T. Thomas made Griese throw it up for grabs to be intercepted by linebacker Dennis “Dirt” Winston. But the Steelers would give Miami another chance to get back in when Sidney Thornton surrendered the ball on a fumble, but the Steel Curtain stiffened on a 4th and goal from the one and Don Shula’s team turned it over on downs. A Robin Cole disruption of a punt attempt gave the ball back to Pittsburgh late in the half, but a Cole hold on Matt Bahr’s field goal negated it and the first half expired. To start the third quarter, the Dolphins got a break when George Roberts’ punt bounced off of the back of Dwayne Woodruff’s cleat in a phantom-like manner.
Unbeknownst to most, the visitors had the ball deep in Steelers territory. Duriel Harris’ 7-yard TD reception from Griese, followed by an Uwe Von Schamann point-after made the score 20-7. But the Steelers were too much for Miami on this day. The very next drive, Rocky Bleier, following Franco Harris’ long run to the doorstep, took it in from the one to extend the lead back to 20. After Harris and Czonka traded touchdowns in Quarter No. 4, the black and gold were driving in for another score when rookie Greg Hawthorne coughed up the ball and Miami recovered at the enemy 7. But it was over, especially when Woodruff picked off Greise’s final pass in the end zone with time expired. In a banner day in the Steel City. Bradshaw finished 21/31 for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns, Harris ran for a score and 83 of the home team’s 159 rushing yards, while the defense limited Miami to a mere 25 yards rushing in 22 attempts and Jack Lambert, Joe Greene and Gary Dunn combined for 3 sacks of Griese. Chuck Noll’s proclamation to reporters that his team “hasn’t peaked yet” was a stirring reminder to the Houston Oilers who awaited in the AFC Championship game a week later. The rest is history. Great history.
To watch the full game, click HERE
Originally posted on Behind the Steel Curtain – All Posts