Super Bowl IX completes the Steelers 1974 season

THE STEELERS TRAVEL TO OAKLAND

Because of Oakland’s 13-2 record and home field advantage, they were favoured by five points in Las Vegas for the AFC championship game. Playing at home in the playoffs had proved very beneficial in the previous two seasons. “One out of 10, eh… well that means there’s a chance,” offered Joe Greene.

The NFL’s first ranked offense from the Raiders against the Steelers' first ranked defense.

Dwight White was more confident believing Pittsburgh easier game against Buffalo put them in the right frame of mind as opposed to the Oakland players coming off a tough game against Miami. “Psychologically, it means something,” White said.

Oakland’s Gerald Irons said, “Pittsburgh will always be a rivalry for us because of what Franco did to us. It will be another chance to get back at them for that.”

In the previous season’s AFC Championship game, Oakland routed Pittsburgh 33-14 and during the ’74 season, they shut out the Steelers 17-0. The regular season defeat was with Joe Gilliam at the helm, so the rise of Bradshaw was anticipated to affect a different result.

“We’re going to whip those guys next week,” said Oakland linebacker Phil Villapiano.

1974 AFC Divisional Playoff game
The Pittsburgh Steelers vs the Buffalo Bills

On a crisp, bright afternoon in Pittsburgh, Terry Bradshaw came of age.

He began the game leading the Steelers on a 12 play drive that fizzled out with a dropped pass on the Bills’ goal line. Pittsburgh had to settle for three points from Roy Gerela’s 21-yard field goal.

Later in the first quarter, a poor punt from Bobby Walden set the Bills up for a 56-yard drive they finished with six plays and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Paul Seymour. Buffalo took their 7-3 lead into the second quarter and then the Steelers exploded.

Bradshaw ignited his offense. On a third-and-seven and with all the receivers covered, Bradshaw scrambled eight yards for a first down. Four plays later he skirted right end for 12 yards on a second and 10. When the next play broke down, Bradshaw found Rocky Bleier with a 27-yard touchdown pass. Coach Noll later joked, “Maybe we’ll put that play in. Sometimes even mistakes work well.” Gerela’s point after attempt was blocked, which meant the Steelers took a 9-7 lead.

With Pittsburgh’s defense holding Buffalo, the Steelers were soon given another opportunity that they accepted. Lynn Swann and John Stallworth were their dual threat on the 66-yard drive. Franco Harris finished the series with his 1-yard touchdown run.

On the Bills’ next first down, Jim Braxton turned the ball over when the combined hits from Mike Wagner and Mel Blount forced a fumble that Jack Ham recovered. The 58-yard drive took just four plays that included a 19-yard completion from Bleier followed by a 35-yard completion from Swann. The series was finished by Harris again with his 4-yard touchdown run. Again, the point after was blocked, but the Steelers still led 22-7.

The Steelers defense continued to dominate their opponents while their offense added to the score. With sixteen seconds left of the half, Harris again marched in with a 1-yard touchdown that completed a 56-yard drive in five plays. The Steelers' lead increased to 29-7 with the team setting a new playoff record with four touchdowns in a quarter.

The Bills reduced the lead with a touchdown in the third period before Gerela’s 22-yard field goal completed the scoring in the fourth quarter.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 32 vs the Buffalo Bills 14
Three Rivers Stadium December 22nd 1974; 48,321

Passing:
Bradshaw 12-19-23-1TD, Gilliam 0-2-0

Rushing:
Harris 24-74, Bradshaw 5-48, Bleier 14-45, Davis 5-32, Swann 2-24. Gilliam 1-12

Receiving:
Swann 3-60, Bleier 3-54, Lewis 2-18, Brown 1-29, McMakin 1-22, Shanklin 1-15, Harris 1-5

Before the game, Art Rooney received a telegram that read, “Eat ‘em up. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and on to the Super Bowl. Love and kisses – Frank Albert Sinatra. The Post-Gazette revealed that Sinatra had become friendly with many of the Steelers when they practiced the previous December in Palm Springs in preparation for the Oakland playoff game.

Terry Bradshaw media photoAfter the game, the Post-Gazette described Bradshaw as, “often criticised for being rattled on the field, Bradshaw was the coolest guy in the stadium. He got Buffalo on the run and clicked off the plays so fast that the Bills seemed confused and unsure of themselves.”

Bradshaw commented, “The best game I ever had. If I’ve ever had a problem in the pros, it’s been that I’ve pushed too hard. Now I’m just trying to play down the whole thing. I try to flush everything out of my mind and not worry about things.

It used to be that things built up inside of me a lot. But things are different now. I slept thirteen hours last night.”

Lynn Swann said, “We’re just peaking now and I can’t think of a better time for it. I’m just glad they have faith enough in me so I can be part of it.”

O.J. Simpson was held to 49 yards on 13 carries. Andy Russell explained, “We had a good defense that took away the things that Buffalo likes to do. The key to it was jamming the middle and the stunts.”

REFLECTIONS ON THE BILLS VICTORY

“Football is a game-to-play proposition,” said coach Chuck Noll. “Beating Buffalo last week was great. It really was. But now we have to do it again in Oakland this week.

Terry Bradshaw played a superb game, called a great game. No question about it. But last week is over now and he has to do it again.”

When the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked Noll if Bradshaw’s outstanding performance in the defeat of the Bills signified his arrival as a first rate NFL quarterback, Noll retorted, “Once you figure you’ve arrived, you’re finished. Arrival is retirement.”

JOE GREENE FINALLY PROUD TO BE A PITTSBURGHER

Joe Greene Pro magazine printBorn in Texas and out of North Texas State University, Joe Greene was coach Noll’s first ever draft pick. Now established as one of the league’s top defensive linemen, Greene still makes his home in a suburb of Dallas.

“But Sunday I felt like I really belonged in Pittsburgh,” Greene said reflecting on the playoff win over the Bills. “Why? Because for the first time the fans cheered for us as a team. Not for individuals, not against one player and for another, but for us as a team.

It was a whole new experience and I loved every minute of it. Loved it. Now I’m goin’ to be proud to be considered a Pittsburgher.

It was the day Terry Bradshaw proved to everybody that he had finally become a man and our offensive leader. Maybe him coming here as the heralded saviour of the franchise put unfair pressure on him. Maybe that and all the falls he’s taken have turned him into the man he’s suddenly become.

I can remember when I first came here and was the baby of the group. That was a tough year. After the preseason, I thought what the heck, this is going to be a piece of cake. Just like college. But my first regular season taught me how wrong I was. I think Terry experienced a lot of the same problems because his first preseason was so good. Too good.

I don’t want people to think of Joe Greene and the Steelers defense. I want to think that they’ll think of me only as representative of that group. We’re all in this together. Now I’m proud to include our offense. Baby, they’ve arrived.”

The Post-Gazette selected Joe Greene as their 1974 Dapper Dan Man of the Year

THE STEELERS TRAVEL TO OAKLAND

Because of Oakland’s 13-2 record and home field advantage, they were favoured by five points in Las Vegas for the AFC championship game. Playing at home in the playoffs had proved very beneficial in the previous two seasons. “One out of 10, eh… well that means there’s a chance,” offered Joe Greene.

The NFL’s first ranked offense from the Raiders against the Steelers' first ranked defense.

Dwight White was more confident believing Pittsburgh easier game against Buffalo put them in the right frame of mind as opposed to the Oakland players coming off a tough game against Miami. “Psychologically, it means something,” White said.

Oakland’s Gerald Irons said, “Pittsburgh will always be a rivalry for us because of what Franco did to us. It will be another chance to get back at them for that.”

In the previous season’s AFC Championship game, Oakland routed Pittsburgh 33-14 and during the ’74 season, they shut out the Steelers 17-0. The regular season defeat was with Joe Gilliam at the helm, so the rise of Bradshaw was anticipated to affect a different result.

“We’re going to whip those guys next week,” said Oakland linebacker Phil Villapiano.

1974 AFC Championship game
The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3-1) at the Oakland Raiders (13-2-0)

The Steelers’ defense began the game powerfully, forcing a combined six yard loss on the Raiders’ first three plays forcing their opponents to kick.

Unfortunately, Lynn Swann’s fumble of Oakland’s punt handed the Raiders supreme field position on the Steelers’ 41. Mel Blount came to his team’s rescue knocking down Ken Stabler’s third down pass. It resulted in Oakland only putting three points on the scoreboard with George Blanda’s 40-yard field goal.

Having hooked a 20-yard field goal attempt wide in the first quarter, Roy Gerela tied the game in the second period with a 23-yard field goal taking the teams into the locker room with a 3-3 score line.

Jack Lambert blocked a Raiders’ field goal attempt early in the third quarter, but Oakland then took a 10-7 lead with a 10-yard touchdown pass completion.

As the game moved into the final quarter, Terry Bradshaw called what coach Noll described as “a masterful game” taking his team 61 yards in nine plays, finished by Franco Harris’s 8-yard touchdown run.

Jack Ham’s second interception, returned 24 yards to the opponents 9, stopped the Raiders on their next series. Three plays later, Lynn Swann’s 6-yard completion in the end zone gave the Steelers their first lead of the game.

“I called the play myself,” said Swann. “A couple of plays earlier, I discovered it was open. I told Bradshaw and he was ready to call it, but coach Noll sent in the double tight end formation for two plays. While I was on the sidelines I told Noll about it and he finally called it. It was as wide open as I expected it to be.”

Oakland attempted to fight back with Stabler completing passes of 16, 42 and 12 yards, but on a third down at the Steelers’ 7, Mike Wagner tore through the line on a safety blitz forcing Stabler to throw the ball away. The Raiders had to settle for a 24-yard field goal.

As Stabler deserted the Raiders’ defunct running game and concentrated on passing his way back into the game, J.T Thomas came up with the interception to ensure the Steelers were on their way to their first Super Bowl. Thomas returned the ball to Oakland’s 24 setting up Harris’s touchdown run of 21 yards that completed the scoring.

Lynn Swann media photol
Franco Harris scoring while Oakland's Villapiano looks on

The Pittsburgh Steelers 21 at the Oakland Raiders 13
The Oakland Coliseum December 29th 1974; 53,515

Passing:
Bradshaw 8-17-95-1 TD

Rushing:
Harris 29-111, Bleier 18-98, Bradshaw 1-15

Receiving:
Brown 2-37, Bleier 2-35, Swann 2-17, Stallworth 2-16

Art Rooney Sheds a Tear or Two

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the Chief stood up the entire second half in the back of the chilly, wind-swept press box.

He watched impassively with his familiar cigar poked in the left corner of his mouth. He wore an overcoat to ward off the chill along with his usual cap. The man who has often said, “Nobody loses any harder than I do, but nobody knows it because I don’t show it,” wasn’t going to show how much winning meant to him either.

When they fell behind the Raiders 10-3 in the third period, there were no frowns. And there were no shows of emotion on his face when he watched the big plays in the fourth period, like Franco Harris’s touchdown burst, Jack Ham’s second interception and Lynn Swann’s scoring catch. All of them happened on the left side of the field and he watched them quietly and then turned to his right where the TV monitor was and watched them again.

But, again, his face remained impassive.

But imagine what must have been going on in his heart. The glistening eyes and the tear or two betrayed his true emotions at the end.

After the Steelers had wrapped up their 24-13 triumph to get the Super Bowl berth, he admitted it was his “greatest Day” and said he never lost confidence even when the Steelers fell behind. “I still thought we would win. You get that feeling sometime.”

When I go to the track, I get that feeling, said the man who kept the Steelers going in the depression days with his good hunches on the horses.

He added, “I guess I’ve got the same feeling that George Halas and Paul Brown and all the other winners had when they were on top. I’ve never gotten this far. The players had tremendous confidence. You could just feel it.”

When Andy Russell asked, “Did we beat their butts? Did we?” he wasn’t expecting an answer, but John Madden agreed. “They just beat our butts,” Madden said. “Their defense just crushed us. I didn’t believe any team could handle us like that, but they did it. We couldn’t do a thing with our running game.”

Dwight White declared, “The best team won. That shouldn’t surprise anybody.”

Ray Mansfield, “We got a little tired of hearing that last week’s Oakland-Miami game was the real Super Bowl. When you get stung like that, you become just a little more dedicated to winning.”

Rocky Bleier’s 98 yards were a career high. Bleier commented, “The offensive line, the blocking was super. It was as simple as that.”

STABILITY LEADS TO STEELERS 1974 SUCCESS

As the Steelers prepared to travel to New Orleans for Super Bowl IX, the above headline in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was their reasoning for why the team was finally going to the big one.

Coach Noll’s five man rotation of running backs had been replaced with the reliability of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Rookie wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth had begun to blossom as the season progressed.

The insertion of Gerry Mullins as the second tight end in goal-line situations had been a major plus, but the Post-Gazette believed the main ingredient in the Steelers’ achievement was stability.

Noll’s shuffling and tweaking had been kept to a minimum on the offensive line and at tight end. Swann and Stallworth were now the favoured players for the team’s receivers.

Terry Bradshaw media photo“What it amounts to,” Bradshaw told the Post-Gazette, “is The Man (coach Noll) has confidence in us. You have to earn that. Because of it though, there is less of a need for him to shuffle players.

Of course playing the same people all the time makes for continuity and consistency. That’s a big part of our success in the playoffs – consistency. Even in the first half against Oakland, we were consistently effective. We stopped ourselves couple of times near the goal line, so we only had three points to show for it, but man, there was no doubt in our minds even then that we were in absolute command.”

Rocky Bleier believed the constant changes on offense at the beginning of the season were the reasons they took time to produce. “When you make some many changes, it takes time for everything to mesh,” he observed. “I think that is more so in the offensive line than anywhere else because timing is complicated and critical there.”

It took us a little longer to develop as an offense because of all the changing around, but once we found the right combination our talent took over. A lot of people didn’t think we had that much talent on offense, but don’t kid yourself, we do.

And with our defense being as good as it is, we’ve been able to take our time and develop. Maybe we relied on them too often at times, but now they know we can make it on own on if they are having a rare off-day.”

Ron Shanklin added, “If you got to have a peak, the time to have it is in the playoffs. Right now, our motors are running on all cylinders at all times. We smell the money. Maybe that’s all it took.”

THE POT OF GOLD AT THE END OF THE SUPER BOWL RAINBOW

A Steeler player who is on the average salary of $42,000 would be looking at an additional $15,000 if the team won the Super Bowl. The players could expect to double that amount from the exhibition game against the College All-Stars played annually by the winning team.

Each Steeler received $8,500 for winning the AFC championship

PATIENCE PAYS OFF

Dan Rooney gave his brother Art credit for some of the Steelers’ success. “Art set the stage for the whole thing,” Dan Rooney said. “Art, with Dick Haley and Bill Nunn put the scouting reports together and Chuck Noll, when he came here, fit it all together.”

Chuck Noll media photoNoll was given a three year contract when Dan Rooney hired him in 1969. After his first 1-13 season, the club began to progress. “If there is one thing about Chuck Noll that stands out, it’s patience,” Rooney said. “When he first joined us, he used all the knowledge he picked up from the scouting reports. He worked with people, listening, observing and then he made the decisions… big decisions.”

Art Rooney said he noticed the difference between Noll and the coach he replaced, Bill Austin, straight away. “Austin felt we had a team that could win seven or eight games a year. He felt that way and went down thinking that way,” Art Rooney Jr. said.

“When Noll came here, he told us bluntly that we had a bad football team. He was an assistant coach in Baltimore in 1968 when the Colts murdered us 41-7.” Rooney Jr. recognised the NFL draft system had helped the Steelers to progress since Noll arrived. “The draft is supposed to help the weaker clubs and we have built our club through the draft.”

SUPER BOWL BOUND STEELERS

While the Steelers resumed workouts for the big game, the Vikings were not going to practice the week before travelling to New Orleans. Ron Shanklin commented, “I guess they figure they can’t beat the Steelers anyway, so they might as well take the week off.

Rocky Bleier was upgraded from a Vietnam “veteran” to a “hero” in a Chicago paper over the course of a week – that’s the aura of the Super Bowl.

Accepting congratulatory calls from around the country, Art Rooney received one from George Halas, president of the NFC.

Halas told Rooney he was rooting for his old friend while Rooney replied, “The current Steelers team reminded him of Halas’s old ‘Monsters of Midway’ team. We have a young team that could be on top for years. It’d be a big thing for the players if we win the next game. It’s an unseen thing, but it makes a difference in the future.”

1974 NFL DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - JACK LAMBERT

Jack Lambert media photo“Shortly after he signed with us,” said Noll, “Lambert started driving in from Kent State almost every weekend to absorb our defensive philosophy and understand the middle linebacker’s role in it.

He studied films with our linebacker coach Woody Widenhofer all summer. When you see a kid do something like that with the intensity he did it, well you just know he’s something special.

The kid has been strength for us all season. Sure, he’s improved a whole lot, but there was never any time when we looked upon Jack as a weakness or liability because of his inexperience.

A few teams, (particularly Denver) picked on him early, but more because of the coverages we were using than because he was a rookie.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explained a middle linebacker is to the defense what a quarterback is to the offense. Not only must he call signals, he must take an active role in every play and be conscious of where every other player must be and what those other players must do.

“There are many easier positions for a rookie to break in at,” reminded Noll. “At middle linebacker, physical talent will only take you so far. There is a lot of mental ability required.”

ERNIE HOLMES - PLAYING HIS PART

“Pro football player Ernie Holmes was charged last night with shooting a state highway patrolman and shooting at two other officers.” That 1973 headline should have meant the end of Ernie Holmes’ football career.

But Holmes played for the Steelers. The franchise is an organisation known for treating their players as more than a number in a uniform so he was given an opportunity to continue in football. The Steelers provided him with medical help and after being placed on five years’ probation, Holmes has become an integral part of the team’s defense with no relapses.

Holmes dominated Oakland’s Gene Upshaw in Pittsburgh’s AFC championship win. “I had a beautiful game against Upshaw,” Holmes explained. “I did darn near everything I wanted to do against him.  I was psyched up all week for Upshaw. He had been getting an arm on me in the past and I worked all week on stopping him from doing that.”

Two years after suffering a nervous breakdown, Holmes was heading towards a potential Super Bowl win with the organisation that had provided the help he needed after they heard his cry for help.

GLORY HUNTING WASN’T ROONEY’S ART

That was the headline in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the day before Super Bowl IX and the following article explained all.

Art Rooney media photoThe affection that Art Rooney held by NFL fans was evident when he wandered into the press lounge in New Orleans. He immediately became the centre of attraction. The half dozen reporters originally in the lounge were overwhelmed by than addition of a hundred more with the majority appearing to be pulling for Rooney.

Someone asked Rooney if he would be as popular if he’d been winning instead of losing all through the years.

“People are naturally for the underdog but I didn’t look for that popularity,” Rooney said. “When the blue laws were repealed in 1933 and I applied for an NFL franchise in 1933, it was just a hop, skip and a jump from semi-pro ball. I never gave it any of my time. Only the guys like George Halas, Curley Lambeau and George Marshall tried to win.

But when I started trying to win in the ‘40s, everybody else did too, and it became difficult. My worst break came when Jock Sutherland died after we tied for the division title (1947).

As he continued to delight his audience with tales about the old days, he reminisced about when a team demanded its guarantee in cash before it took to the field for the second half and went on to explain that players were paid $100 or so a game. “Nobody lost much money, but nobody made much either,” Rooney confirmed. “You had 18 or 23 players. Their guarantee was $2,500 a game.”

Minnesota’s owner Max Winter acknowledged the Chief’s popularity, “At least I won’t feel so bad if I lose.”

BRADSHAW vs TARKENTON

Art Rooney and Terry Bradshaw media photoLooking ahead to the Super Bowl, Terry Bradshaw observed, “Everything revolves around the quarterback. If a quarterback has a good game, that can be the difference between winning and losing. Sure, the rest of the team is involved and they play a tremendous part. But it all comes down to the quarterback. I’m the leader. If I play good, we win. If I play bad, we lose.”

In a topsy turvy season that had seen Bradshaw begin the season sitting on the bench as the number three quarterback, his opposite number, Fran Tarkenton, only knew stability.

Tarkenton had always been the starter in his five seasons with New York and nine in Minnesota. “I think experience helps,” Tarkenton said. “I think being able to call on 14 years’ experience is an advantage for me in these types of games. I’ve faced just about every situation you can I guess.”

The Vikings had been to the Super Bowl twice including the previous year with Tarkenton who said, “I think it’s time we won one of these things. We sure don’t want to be the first team to lose the Super Bowl three times.”

He continued, “The team that wins Sunday will be the one that establishes some consistency in moving the football. We’ve got to get into their end zone, not just settle for a field goal. The team that avoids the big error will win this game.

These are the two best defenses to ever play in the Super Bowl. They are very similar.”

With the whinging coming from the teams that thought they would be in the Super Bowl, but were knocked out, Tarkenton commented, “I’m sick and tired of hearing what (Miami’s) Paul Warfield and (Oakland’s) Ken Stabler have to say about the best teams not reaching the Super Bowl. Obviously those gentlemen never read the rules before they started playing the game.

Evidently nobody told Stabler that it takes three extra wins to win the Super Bowl. Not one, especially not the first one. I didn’t hear Stabler or Warfield say their teams were so much better before they played the teams they lost to.

Pittsburgh has done everything it takes to reach the Super Bowl and so have we.”

COMPUTER FAVOURS STEELERS BY 4.1 POINTS FOR SUPER BOWL IX

Bud Goode, a renowned sports computer analyst, highlighted several characteristics that meant Pittsburgh were 4.1 points better than Minnesota. Intercepted passes, number of rushes per game and yards per pass attempt.

Goode felt that in the ultimate game, opponents play conservatively to their strengths and was convinced that would be why the Steelers would win.

SUPER BOWL IX

Carrying on from their outstanding performance in the AFC Championship game, the Steelers defense dominated the first half, but had little to show for their efforts until the second quarter.

Sam Davis dropped Samuel McCullum at the 7 after he fielded a punt bouncing towards the end zone. On the second play of the series, Tarkenton’s handoff eluded Osborn and as L.C. Greenwood pressured the Vikings’ quarterback. Tarkenton recovered in the end zone to prevent a touchdown but gave up the first safety in Super Bowl history and a two point lead to the Steelers.

At halftime, coach Noll told his team to keep doing what you are doing and you will win and it paid off when the Steelers kicked off the second half. The Vikings’ Bill Brown fumbled the Roy Gerela’s low kick and Marv Kellum recovered for the Steelers on their opponents’ 30.

Franco Harris ran for 24 yards before losing 3 yards on second down followed by a 9-yard touchdown run providing the Steelers with a 9-0 lead.

Early in the final quarter, a Bobby Walden kick was blocked by Minnesota’s Matt Blair and his teammate Terry Brown recovered the loose ball in the end zone. With a missed extra point, the Steelers lead was reduced to 9-6.

Terry Bradshaw led his team on a 12-play drive of 66 yards with contributions from Harris, Larry Brown and Rocky Bleier before on third and goal, Bradshaw swept right before finding Brown with a 4-yard touchdown pass.

The Steelers finished the game as 16-6 victors having held the Vikings to Super Bowl record lows of nine first downs, 119 total offensive yards with just 17 rushing yards. The Purple People Eaters’ defense was shown how to play real football by a Steel Curtain that lost Andy Russell and Jack Lambert for most of the second half.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 16 vs the Minnesota Vikings 6
Tulane Stadium, New Orleans January 15th 1975; 80,997

Passing:
Bradshaw 9-14-96-1TD
Tarkenton 11-27-102


Rushing:
Harris 34-158, Bleier 17-65, Bradshaw 5-33, Shanklin 1-(-7)
Foreman 12-22, Osborn 1-(-1)

Receiving:
Brown 3-49, Stallworth 3-24, Lewis 1-12, Bleier 2-11
Foreman 5-50, Voigh 2-31, Gilliam 1-16, Osborn 2-7, Reed 1-(-2)

“It would have been terrible not to win because all the people back home were so sure we were going to do it,” Art Rooney commented. “I always felt it was kind of preordained. We never lost faith.”

Dwight White media photoAmong the many Steelers heroes of the day was Dwight White (picture right). Having spent most of the previous week in hospital with pneumonia and losing 18 pounds of weight, Noll initially told the team that White would not be playing. Only after he had participated in the pre game warm-up was the decision made that he would start and play as long as possible.

 “I was never worried about Dwight,” confirmed L.C. Greenwood. “I knew if he could walk, he’d play. Heck, as long as he was breathing I knew he’d play. But I never expected him to be able to play that long or as well. He was unreal.”

Franco Harris was the game’s MVP. His 158 yards rushing broke the Super Bowl record and it was against a defense that was considered the best in the NFL. “Our offensive line was something. They opened some fantastic holes,” said Harris.

Paying compliments to the Steelers’ defensive unit, Noll commented, “They’ve never played a more defensive game, never. Our defense has been fantastic all season and I think it’s appropriate that they should finish things off like they did.”

Joe Greene praised Chuck Noll when he said the coach did the right thing by keeping the team loose all week. “That’s the only way to handle it in a zoo like this,” said Greene.

“You know the man knows his stuff,” Greene continued. “Little things are so important and he doesn’t overlook a one. Like letting the wives stay in the same rooms as us, then not making a bed check last night. That’s faith.

We could have slipped out and taken advantage of it. After all, there was no way of checking on us. But I appreciate the confidence he showed in us and it paid off.”

SUPER BOWL IX FOLLOW ON

The Pittsburgh Press described Dwight Wight as looking like someone who had lived a week in a coffin. He had spent most of the week leading up to the Super Bowl in hospital, first diagnosed as pleurisy that turned into pneumonia.

“Dwight’s a real toughie,” offered Greene. “He convinced everyone he could play.” And so he did.

Art Rooney media photoAfter the Super Bowl win, the Pittsburgh Press wrote that Steelers owner Art Rooney was the same as he always is – affable and benign and unexcited. The sports writers needed some symbolic act, some display of exuberance from Mr Rooney as they pressed to get near him in the locker room.

“How do you FEEL right now?” they asked in attempt to get an emotional response they could write home about. Pressing Mr Rooney to fill their newspapers’ space, one inquired, “Well, at the end of the game did you let out a little howl? Mr Rooney calmly explained that he wasn’t the howling type.

“If you were standing alongside me at the race track, you wouldn’t know I was betting,” he explained. “I’m as every bit as happy as a guy that hollers and whoops and jumps up and down. I fill up. When I came down here to the locker room, I just hoped I could do this without starting to cry.

Time after time in previous years, Mr Rooney has seen the Steelers throw leads away, “waiting to get beat.” He was so confident of a Pittsburgh victory during the fourth quarter that he went down to the locker room with three or four minutes to play.

Joe Gilliam suggested the play that saw Terry Bradshaw’s pass to Larry Brown in the fourth quarter seal Pittsburgh’s victory. Coach Noll commented, “That gives you some idea of how everyone was contributing.”
Veteran Andy Russell prophesied, “Most of the guys on this team are young and I want to be with them a few more seasons.”

Later, Art Rooney as the owner of the Super Bowl champions took a cab to his hotel and said, “This is better anyway. I never feel comfortable in those limousines.

THE STEELERS FINALLY PUT THE PAST BEHIND THEM

Art Rooney media photoWhen Art Rooney introduced pro football to Pittsburgh, the country was just leaving the Great Depression behind and money was still short in most households. Mr Rooney’s Pirates had to compete for the sports fans’ dollars in a town where college football and baseball ruled the roost.

Initially, pro football was a novelty that soon wore off with repeat losing seasons. It took four years before the Pirates didn’t fall below .500 when they had a 6-6 record. For the next five years, the team resumed its errant ways, winning an average of just two games each season.

In 1940, Art Rooney decided to rename the team so there would be no competition name-wise with the baseball team. One fan came up with three names that he felt reflected the working people in Pittsburgh, “Coalers – Oilers – Steelers.”

A handful of other fans also came up with the name “Steelers” so the name stuck and Mr Rooney gave each fan who suggested the name two season tickets for the 1940 games at Forbes Field.

The name change made no difference to the performance on the field and the situation became so bad that Mr Rooney sold the team. He soon discovered that football was in the blood and began to regret the sale.

In 1941, Mr Rooney joined forces with his old friend Bert Bell to be co-owners and also Bell became the new coach. A new green and white uniform was designed and the team took on board the imaginative new system, the T-formation the Bears had used to good effect in the previous year’s Championship game.

Mr Rooney was on the sideline at Hershey talking with Pittsburgh sports writer Claire Burcky when he made the statement that hung over the franchise like a dark cloud until Super Bowl IX.

“We have a new name, a new coach, a new system and new uniforms, but they look like the same old Steelers to me.”

On January 12th 1975 in New Orleans, that cloud finally dispersed and the sun finally shone on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“This entire team dedicated this effort at winning the Super Bowl for Mr Rooney,” offered Jerry Mullins.

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