The Delorean says that it's January 20, 1980 and Escape (Piña Colada) is number one on the charts, Gary Coleman is captivating audiences on Diff'rent Strokes and Jimmy Carter just announced the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics. But first, let's go back eight days prior and put yourself in my Buster Brown's.
Imagine you are me.
You are barely eight-years old, and your parents call you into the room with smiles from ear-to-ear. "If the Steelers beat the Oilers tomorrow, we're going to the Super Bowl!" You go into a happy dance that would make Snoopy, or that chick from the Liberty Mutual commercial that can't keep a boyfriend to save her life to the extent that she has to name her car Brad, jealous.
Then reality calls.
And you realize that "we" is they without you, and you cry and hysterically flee the kitchen. So the only time in my forty-one years as a Pittsburgh fan, I (kind-of) rooted against the Steelers. That is until the Mike Renfro-thing happened and I found my soul saved from the dark side.
So my parents went to sunny Pasadena, the home of Van Halen. They actually didn't go to Eddie and Alex' house. They wouldn't know Van Halen from Van Huesen. I, in turn, got to stay home in snow-infested Johnstown with Grandma (God bless her, she was a good woman) who didn't drive, yelled a lot and didn't fall for any shenanigans. I decided to be happy for my parents, plus I knew they would come home with tons of Steeler merchandise for me out of love, and a lot of guilt. I still have my Jack Ham jersey, and the Steeler/Ram visor they brought home. Actually, I know the visor was legit, but I'm pretty sure No. 59 came from Hills Department Store (home of the greatest snack bar ever).
Anyhow, mom and dad went to the high-priced game ("I can't believe we paid $30 for a ticket.") and I watched intently on the television. Looking back, I can't believe that the Steelers were playing and I was rooting against the future star of NBC's Hunter (Fred Dwyer), soon-to-be legend of Pro wrestling Vader (Leon White), Daylon McCutcheon's dad (Lawrence) and a guy playing with a FREAKING BROKEN LEG (Jack Youngblood)!
The game didn't even start yet and I remember getting scared because I learned Jack Ham and Mike Wagner were injured. Then, I flew into mid-game rage when All in the Family's Carroll O'Connor proclaimed on his own network (CBS) that the hometown Rams, at 9-7, were going to beat the Steelers. I lost a little something for the loveable bigot (oxymoron if there ever was one) that day, and started to empathize with Meathead and wish Edith to have a torrid affair with both Irene and Frank Lorenzo next door (Total exaggeration, I was eight. But in fairness, I would wish that now, and it's funny to picture). Actually, I was thinking, I wonder if mom and dad are sitting next to Archie Bunker.
The game began with Cheryl Ladd singing the national anthem and Art Rooney in a vintage car from 1933 entered the playing field for the coin toss. Then there was much rejoicing as the favored Steelers took an early 3-0 lead courtesy of a Matt Bahr field goal, and the legendary Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial debuted. But fortunes quickly took a turn when Vince Ferragamo and Wendell Tyler led the Rams on a sustained drive that culminated in a Cullen Bryant touchdown and a 7-3 L.A. lead to complete the first quarter. But the Steelers stormed back quickly, when Larry Anderson took the ensuing kickoff 45-yards. Anderson was incredible on the day with five returns for 162-yards. Led by Rocky Bleier, Franco Harris ran wide-right into the end zone from a yard out to regain the lead for the Steelers at 10-7, with Bahr's kick-after.
The young Ferragamo, subbing for an injured Pat Haden, was accurate and consistent as the Rams controlled the ball for the remainder of the first half. Two of No. 15's potential TD passes bounced off of Ram receivers, Billy Waddy and Ron Smith. But two Frank Corrall field goals saved points on those drives. The worst team ever (at that point) to play in a Super Bowl was leading the ten-point favorite Steelers 13-10 at the half. As the famed "Up With People" were performing their salute to big band music and my dad rolling his eyes listening to my mom complaining about no actual bathrooms at the famed Rose Bowl as they waited in line at the port-a-potties, Steeler Nation stuffed themselves with pierogies and kielbasa in absolute disbelief.
Larry Anderson ignited Steeler Nation's flame of excitement once again as he went on a 37-yard kickoff jaunt to start the second half. Terry Bradshaw went deep to a leaping Lynn Swann over two defenders for a 47-yard score to take a 17-13 lead. But Ferragamo went deep to Waddy for 50-yards and then McCutcheon found Smith on some trickery with a 24-yard hookup and their third lead of the game. Corrall missed the extra point and the score was 19-17 Rams. Los Angeles tightened up the running lanes giving Franco and Rocky nowhere to run, while Rod Perry knocked Swann out of the game with a jarring hit. Bradshaw threw two of his three picks in the third quarter and a fourth Super Bowl title looked bleak.
In the fourth quarter, the Steelers woke up. Bradshaw went deep again to John Stallworth for a 73-yard score when No. 82 outreached and burned Rod Perry with a gorgeous touchdown and a 24-19 lead. But the Ray Malavasi's Rams weren't done.
Ferragamo went deep to Drew Hill and Bryant ran all over the vaunted Steel Curtain defense. But despite a J.T. Thomas sack, the Rams kept driving and looked like they were going to get the job done. But then Ferragamo made his only mistake. Like another Steeler linebacker from Kent state nearly 30 years later, Jack Lambert dropped into coverage and halted the Rams scoring drive with an interception of Ferragamo at the Pittsburgh 15 with 5:24 to go. Ferragamo didn't notice a wide-open Waddy in the post. With the lead, Bradshaw went deep again to Stallworth for another beauty that netted 44-yards. Five plays later, Franco scored his second one-yard TD and the Steelers iced the game 31-19.
The Steelers closed out the 70s with their fourth title in six years, No. 12 was named MVP, there was much rejoicing once again and Grandma yelled at me for being out of bed. This would be the last hurrah for a while, as this dynastic version of the Men of Steel would never get back to the Super Bowl. But it spawned a legacy, a culture and a loyal fanbase. The first dynasty may have climaxed on this day, but the black and gold dream lives on forever.
To watch the highlights of the game, click HERE
To watch the full game, click HERE