With the flux capacitors fluxing and the time circuits set to January 21, 1979, the BTSC Delorean has plenty of room to take us all back to another remarkable day in Pittsburgh sports history. On that very day, Neptune became the outermost planet, the price of gold increases to a record $875 troy ounce, “Le Freak” by Chic was the No. 1 song on the charts, The Deer Hunter and Love at First Bite was big at the box office and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys were both vying to become the first three-time winner in the 13-year history of the event. Leading up to the game, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson got into a war of words with Terry Bradshaw by saying that the Steeler quarterback couldn’t spell cat if you supplied the c and the a. But this was a guy that later admitted to inhaling cocaine out of an asthma inhaler while being shown by NBC cameras. It was the perfect setup to a bubbling rivalry.
Jack Lambert, Sam Davis and Joe Greene emerged at the center of the field with the legendary NFL owner and patriarch George Halas for the coin toss, but the Dallas contingent won the toss and elected to receive. The erratic Roy Gerela came out to boot the ball and open up the contest. From their 28, Dallas introduced Pitt’s Tony Dorsett to this Super Bowl rivalry and the Rochester native shredded the Steel Curtain for 25 yards on his initial two carries. The last one was nearly broken by Dorsett, but Donnie Shell saved it with the tackle. After no gain by RB Robert Newhouse, Tom Landry went back to Dorsett for 13 more yards, and it looked like Dallas was definitely fixing to get a timeshare in Pittsburgh territory. However, Dallas tried trickery on the next play and paid for it when Dorsett and Drew Pearson misconnected on the reverse that was meant to become a pass play to TE Billy Joe Dupree. Jon Banaszak pounced on it at his own 47 to stop the drive. After they took over, the Steelers were stopped on two runs. Then Bradshaw went to the air and threw precision bullets in the light rain to Randy Grossman and twice to John Stallworth. The second of No. 82’s two spectacular catches went for 28 yards and pay dirt. It was 7-0 Steelers with 9:47 left in the first.
With the Cowboys moving into Steeler territory on their next series after Butch Johnson beat Steelers CB Ron Johnson to get to the enemy 39, the Steeler defense (Steve Furness and Dwight White) sacked Captain America twice to force a punt. The Steelers looked to take early control with Bradshaw completing consecutive passes to Harris and Swann, but his connection with D.D. Lewis from the Dallas 30 halted that drive. It was his first ever pick thrown in a Super Bowl, his third. After forcing another Danny White punt, the Steelers offense took the field and went looking for dinner again with good field position from their own 38. But Bradshaw got rocked by Harvey Martin for a strip sack on third and six that was recovered by Dallas’ Ed “Too Tall” Jones with a minute to go in the quarter. Staubach looked to take quick advantage by finding Drew Pearson open in the end zone, but Donnie Shell recovered and broke it up. But on the very next play, the Steelers blitzed and “how Roger the Dodger” stood tall and located Tony Hill 15-yards downfield. Hill raced past Donnie Shell for the 40-yard score and a 7-7 tie at the end of one.
In the Second Quarter, the Steelers were moving the ball. However, Dallas’ “Doomsday Defense” was putting a lot of pressure on Bradshaw. On third and long from the Steeler 48, Terry bobbled the snap but retained it. However, the botch gave Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson enough time to constrain Bradshaw’s arms to allow Mike Hegman to thieve the ball and run it in all the way for a score. The Steeler QB landed on his elbow and there was much concern about the health and availability of TB12, more than the 14-7 Dallas lead. No. 12 came out on the next drive and must have not been hurt too bad, for on third down he rifled a 15-yard pass to John Stallworth who, with help from a Lynn Swann block on Bennie Barnes, beat Randy Hughes and jetted off to the end zone and a 14-14 tie. The Steelers almost had a quick defensive score on the next series when a Joe Greene sack jarred the ball loose deep in Dallas territory, but Steve Furness didn’t pounce on it. Instead, he tried to pick it up for a sure touchdown, couldn’t get control and the Cowboys recovered. Dallas escaped by punting from his own end zone. Roy Gerela, perhaps the worst player in Steeler Super Bowl history, clanked his 51-yard attempt off of the uprights and crisis was averted for Dallas.
Tom Landry’s team looked like they were going to take advantage and take the lead as they drove into Steeler territory, but couldn’t do anything with their luck. Pittsburgh put a ferocious rush on Staubach and his offering was snagged by Mel Blount at the Steeler 16 and returned to the 29 inside the two-minute warning. Because of a 15-yard penalty on an unnecessary hit by Billy Joe Dupree on Blount, the Steelers had great field position before the end of the half. Bradshaw took advantage and Lynn Swann was his weapon of choice on this possession (for 50 yards on two catches) to get the Steelers in the Red Zone. With :26 to go, Bradshaw rolled right and found a leaping Rocky Bleier in front of D.D. Lewis for seven yards and a 21-14 lead at the half.
The first three possessions of the third quarter ended in punts as amped-up defenses and tempers flared along the way. On the fourth possession, “America’s Team” mounted a drive behind Dorset’s legs that had “the Steel Curtain” about to break. On third down at the Steeler 10, Scott Laidlaw delivered a shot to Lambert in the ribs that knocked the future Hall of Famer off course, thus freeing Jackie Smith to be all alone in the middle of the end zone. But the future HOF TIght End of 16 years dropped the soft pass and the Cowboys settled for a 27-yard Raphael Septien field goal. The play would go down as one of the biggest blunders in Super Bowl lore. Many Cowboys fans cite this instance for being the reason that their team lost the game, however it would have only tied the score with more than a quarter left of action. It was now Steelers 21 and the Cowboys 17.
There was plenty of scoring in the Fourth Quarter, but it started with consecutive punts. A controversial pass interference penalty on Bennie Barnes while covering Swann led to a 28-yard gain. But on third down, Pittsburgh suffered a delay of game penalty. Hollywood ignored the whistle and slammed Bradshaw to the Miami turf. It was a move that Franco Harris took exception too and the two opposing players had words. Now with ten yards to go, it isn’t typical to run the ball. But an angry Harris was set free on a trap by Mike Webster, Ray Pinney and Gerry “Moon” Mullins and scored from 22 out. On the play, Charlie Waters ran into an official preventing from getting to Harris. With 7:10 remaining, Pittsburgh held a 28-17 advantage.
Roy Gerela squibbed the kick. Not sure if it was behind or if he was merely being Roy Gerela, but it worked when it bounced off of the casted-hand of Randy White playing on Special Teams. Dennis “Dirt” Winston recovered and the Steelers had the ball on the Dallas 18. Terry Bradshaw, who never had a 300-yard passing game at this juncture in his career, got it immediately with an 18-yard TD pass to Lynn Swann. The score was now 35-17 with 6:51 remaining on the clock.
Dallas, now in desperation mode, went to Dorsett and the air hoping for a miracle. Despite the Banaszak Bunch celebrating the second sack perpetrated by their hero, the Cowboys put together a 4:24 second drive that culminated in a seven-yard BillyJoe Dupree touchdown catch from Staubach. After Robert Thurman recovered with 2:27 left in the game, the Cowboys scored again when Butch Johnson hauled-in a Staubach throw from four-yards out. But only :22 remained and the world knew that another onside kick was coming with the Cowboys trailing by four points. Rocky Bleier surehanded the attempt and the Steelers, by a score of 35-31, were three-time champions and again the toast of the town.
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