Steelers' postseason history: Jan. 21 -- Super Bowl XIII

Written by Dan Gigler on .

Since the Steelers have the wrong kind of home field advantage this postseason, we'll take a look back at some of the highlights and disappointments of playoffs past ...

Today: January 21, 1979 -- Super Bowl XIII vs. Dallas Cowboys


This story from the Post-Gazette archives was first published on January 22, 1979.

MIAMI ---- Light up the skies. Beat the drums. Let the words ring out.

SBXIII francoThe Pittsburgh Steelers carved their niche in the pro football history books yesterday by becoming the first team to win three Super Bowls.

Before 78,656 fans in the Orange Bowl - many of them Steeler partisans waving their "Terrible Towels"- the Steelers whipped the Dallas Cowboys XIII in a game that wasn't as close as the score sounded.

Putting a football in Terry Bradshaw's hands in like handling Picasso a brush or Hemingway a pen. He riddled the Cowboys for 318 yards and four touchdowns in the best day of his pro career.

That enabled the Steelers to become the "team of the '70s" by winning their third championship in five years. Only the Green Bay Packers, who won five titles in seven years in the '60s (three of them before the Super Bowl was founded) have surpasses the Steelers.

But that was a different era and the Steelers feel they have established themselves as the best football team ever to play the game.

"We'd hae Ray Nitschke (the celebrated Green Bay middle linebacker) and those guys for lunch," boasted Dwight White.

Jack Ham, a man not given to extravagant claims, said simply. "This is the best football team I've ever seen."

The way the Steelers rolled through the playoffs was awe-inspiring. They got one point better in each game.

They beat Denver 33-10, Houston 34-5, and had a 35-17 lead on Dallas in the fourth period before the Cowboys scored two late touchdowns to make it close.

SBXIII StallworthThe Steelers finished pro football's longest season with a 17-2 record for a percentage topped in modern times only by Miami's 17-0 mark in 1972 and Green Bay's 14-1 mark in 1962.

Dallas, becoming the second team to lose three Super Bowls (Minnesota has lost four), finished at 14-5.

Although Bradshaw overcame an interception and two fumbles to win the MVP award, it wasn't a one-man show.

The Steelers, who have 22 veterans from their first Super Bowl team, showed they're champions for a lot of reasons.

They're champions because they have a pair an offensive line that neutralized the vaunted Dallas defensive line.

They're champions because they have a pair of receivers named Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, who burned the Dallas cornerbacks time and time again.

SBXIII TerryThey're champions because they have a defense that can still make the big play and dominate a game.

They're the champions because they have a blocking back named Rocky Bleier, who plays in the shadow but can come up with a crucial touchdown catch.

They're champions because Franco Harris can be bottled up for much of the game and then break a critical play.

But it all comes back to Bradshaw. It is not enough to say he's the best quarterback playing the game. You have to look back to people like Unitas and Starr and Layne and Graham when you talk about him.

"I told Bradshaw he had a hell of a game," Dallas' Cliff Harris said. "You don't psyche him."

There was a lot of talking during the week and Bradshaw did none of it. He just did the playing. He fell behind 14-7 in the second period after Mike Hegman pulled a ball from his arms and ran 37 yards for a Dallas touchdown.

A lesser quarterback might have (could not read hard copy). Not Terry Bradshaw. "It's the mark of the maturity of the man Joe Greene marveled.

Bradshaw put two more touchdowns on the board in the first half for a 21-14 lead. When Dallas cut the lead to 21-17 and Pittsburgh was held to one first down in the third quarter, a lesser quarterback might have been rattled again. But not Bradshaw. He drove the team 85 yards in the fourth quarter for the touchdown that broke the Cowboys' back.

When the Steeler offense took the field with 12:08 left in the game, the situation looked critical. The Steelers were ahead 21-17, but they had the lead only because Jackie Smith had dropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone. The Cowboys settled for a field goal.

The Steelers had not moved the ball in the second half. "In the huddle, guys were saying, 'We's got to go 85 (yards)... we've got to go 85," Jon Kolb noted.

They went 85.

"Chuck (Noll) wasn't conservative," Bradshaw said explaining the third quarter leg. "We knew they'd change their coverages. I wanted to take my time."

Time was running out, Kolb said. "We knew we couldn't treat water with Dallas. We were conscious of the fact that if we didn't make something happen, Dallas would. If we had one fault all year, it was that when we got ahead, we didn't knock teams out."

The Steelers went for the knockout. Bradshaw hit Randy Grossman for nine yards. He hit Lynn Swann for 13. Franco Harris went for five yards. Then Benny Barnes was called for tripping Swann producing a 33-yard penalty. Barnes protested the most controversial call of the game.

Four plays later, Bradshaw faced a third-and-nine on the Dallas 22. The Cowboys were looking for the pass. Bradshaw called a tackle trap play. "We caught'em blitzing and there was really a nice hole," Franco said.

The run was poetic justice. On the previous play, Harris jawed with Thomas Henderson. Henderson tackled Bradshaw after the whistle had blown when the Steelers were called for too much time.

"I wish we could say we planned it that way," Greene said.

With a 28-17 lead, the Steelers had a seemingly comfortable margin. Dirt Winston recovered a fumble on the ensuring kickoff and Bradshaw fired an 18-yard strike to Swann to wrap it up.

Dallas scored two touchdowns to make it closer and make the betters swear, but the game was decided.

It was close and exciting enough to leave Dallas with a lot of "what ifs?" What if Tom Landry had run Dorsett more? He got 38 yards on his first three carries and carried only 12 times the rest of the game. Landry's call for a reverse that turned into a fumble and killed the first drive also was puzzling. The tripping penalty on Barnes also caused much consternation in Dallas.

The Steelers were simply the better team. Three years ago, the same teams did the same thing and the Steelers won by four points, 21-17.

They were better then and they're better now. After two frustrating years, the Steelers are back on top.

"It's taken all year to prove we're the best team, " Loren Toews said.

They have proven it. Without a doubt.

They're the Super Steelers. Super Steelers III.

Pittsburgh Press coverage
Entire broadcast, no commercials
Player introductions

WTVJ-Miami Super Bowl XIII preview show pt. 1

Pt. 2 (starts with segment about the Terrible Towel & Steelers fans, then Nick Buoniconti interviews Franco)
Pt. 3
Pt. 4
Super Bowl XIII National Anthem
Super Bowl XIII Halftime Announcements
Super Bowl XIII Commercials
Commercials 2
Commercials 3
NFL Network: Story of the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, pt. 1
Pt. 2
Pt. 3
Pt. 4
Pt. 5

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