With the flux capacitors fluxing and the time circuits set to January 12, 1975, the BTSC Delorean has plenty of room to take us all back to a remarkable day in Pittsburgh sports history. On that very day, Chrysler became the first automobile company to offer car rebates, sadly another of a Ted Bundy’s victims disappeared in Colorado, “Mandy” by Barry Manilow was the No. 1 song on the charts, Rollerball was big at the box office, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were on the precipice of a championship for the first time in their 42-year existence. The game was intended to be the first ever indoor Super Bowl, but the Louisiana Superdome was not ready, and the game had to be played in rainy, 42-degree weather with a wind chill in the 20s. Despite sporting a dominant defense, the 10-3-1 Steelers were underdogs to the Vikings who were making their third appearance in six years in the big game.
Let’s take a seat at the Tulane Stadium in our minds and relive history.
Preston Pearson received the opening kick and the Steelers started off with good field position at their own 36. Behind a bearded Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers ran the ball on the first two plays and No. 12 was sacked by Alan Page. After a Bobby Walden punt, the mobile Fran Tarkenton came out throwing for a first down. To show how much the league has changed in 45 years, Tarkenton led the league in passing with 2,598 yards. But Joe Greene and the Steelers defense forced a punt. Starting from the 42, the Steelers took to the ground game as Rocky Bleier shot through for an eighteen-yard gain, but Franco Harris was having trouble getting on track. Also, Chuck Noll’s offensive line played with poor discipline, committing a slew of penalties early and allowing another Alan Page sack to end the drive. After Jack Ham, Jack Lambert (Commentator Curt Gowdy claimed that the Steelers called No. 58 “Hayseed”, but that’s a nickname I’d never heard) and L.C. Greenwood teamed up to stifle the Vikings again, the Steelers started in Minnesota territory. A Bradshaw pass to Tight End Larry Brown set the black-and-gold up for a Roy Gerela field goal attempt but the AFC leader with 93 points shanked it wide left.
On their fourth possession, Pittsburgh got the running game going behind runs by Bleier, Bradshaw and Harris. They had their best penetration of the game forcing their way into the red zone, but the drive stalled and Gerela never got the chance to kick as a low snap was never handled by Bobby Walden. The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie. After a PSA by Tarkenton asked viewers to conserve energy by keeping thermostats to 68 degrees and driving under 55 mph, the 14-year veteran came out smoking and full throttle by passing and completing to the dangerous Chuck Foreman for a first down. But the Steeler defense, behind Ernie Holmes and Andy Russell and a ferocious pass rush, forced another punt. The result was not ideal though as the Steelers squandered the possession again after Bleier fumbled to give Minnesota great field position on the Steeler 24. The Steeler defense was tremendous again though and Fred Cox continued the placekicker ineptitude by going wide right. Despite no points, the Steelers were controlling on both sides of the ball.
Another stalled Steeler drive at the hands of the fabled Purple People Eaters ended in a Walden punt and the Vikings started deep in their own territory at their own 6. Then an apparent missed handoff squirted towards the end zone and No. 10 jumped on the ball and Dwight “Mad Dog” White downed the quarterback in the end zone for the first points of the game. What made this so remarkable was the fact that No. 78 was as sick as a dog that week with a bout of pneumonia. The heroic White had lost twenty pounds and left the hospital the morning of the game, only to became the first Steeler to ever score points in a Super Bowl. The first safety in Super a Bowl history made the score 2-0 in favor of the Steelers.
Again, the Steelers couldn’t do much on offense and had to punt. Minnesota mounted their best drive of the game so far with a drive deep into Steeler territory. Destroying the Steelers by rolling out, Tarkenton was on the verge of getting his team on the board. However, on the Steelers 25, the Vikings passer found John Gilliam for seemingly a twenty-yard gain to the 5. However, safety Glen Edwards tattooed Gilliam and the ball squirted up in the air into the greedy hands of the great Mel Blount for the crushing interception with about a minute left in the half. After impressive runs by Bradshaw and Harris, the gun for the half sounded. It was the Steelers up by a score of 2-0.
After out-rushing Minnesota 129-11 and the floats from the “Salute to Duke Ellington” extravaganza with the incomparable Grambling Marching Band exited the playing field, the Steelers were set to start the second half on defense. The deep-kicking Gerela slipped on the slick turf and inadvertently squibbed the kickoff to Bill Brown who mishandled the slippery ball into the waiting hands of Marv Kellum. The Steelers would have the pigskin at the Minnesota 30. From there, Harris would ramble for 24 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the six. Gerry “Moon” Mullins would then spring No. 32 with a block on Wally Hilgenberg for a nine yard score a few plays later. Gerela would make it 9-0.
After trading punts, the Vikings attempted a comeback and Andy Russell limped off the field with an injury. Their biggest and most bizarre play was on a long pass from Tarkenton to Gilliam. But it was illegal. Fran threw a short pass to Foreman, but L.C. Greenwood slapped it back to the quarterback. Tarkenton launched it down field, but it was deemed an illegal forward pass. Then, inside Steeler territory, Dwight White tipped a pass into the air that was hauled in by Joe Greene for the turnover. With the Steelers driving, the ubiquitous rookie Jeff Siemon picked off a Bradshaw offering, but the Vikings were offsides and the play was negated. The Third Quarter ended with the Steelers up 9-0.
After a Steeler punt to start the Fourth Quarter, the Vikings went seeking their first points of the game. With Ed Bradley in for Jack Lambert, Andy Russell subbed for by Loren Toews and Steve Furness replacing White, the Steelers defense continued to smother the Vikes. With 13 minutes left in the game, Bradshaw and Harris struggled with the exchange and the future Hall of Famer Paul Krause recovered the ball at the Steeler 48. To respond, Tarkenton launched one deep to Gilliam. Inexplicably nailed for interference on the play was Mike Wagner that resulted in a 43-yard gain and a first down on the Steeler 5. But the Vikings were snake-bitten all day and Foreman fumbled on the very next play. The ball was recovered by Joe Greene. After another failed Steelers drive, Minnesota got their first points of the contest when Matt Blair burst through the line and blocked Walden’s punt attempt. It was recovered in the end zone by Terry Brown. Cox missed the extra point attempt, and the Steelers lead was now only 9-6.
Chuck Noll’s Steelers then decided to put the game away after that, but it got scary when the future Left Tackle Larry Brown had appeared to have fumbled the ball. However, Brown was deemed to be down, and the play whistled dead. After runs by Harris, Bradshaw and Bleier, No. 12 capped off the 66-yard drive with a five-yard pass to Brown. The Steelers were seemingly in control after the extra point by the score of 16-6 with 3:31 left in the game.
Minnesota couldn’t come back from there as Mike Wagner intercepted a long pass from Tarkenton to Gillliam. With 3:07 left, the MVP Harris drained the clock and set the Super Bowl record with 158 yards on the ground. The third-year vet broke Larry Czonka’s mark from the year before, while the much-maligned Bradshaw completed nine of 14 passes and won the big one in his home state of Louisiana. As the clock wound down, the Steelers carried their young coach off of the field and perennial losers realized their first of four championships in the decade.
The Steelers’ exasperating defense was led by Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood. The Steel Curtain allowed Minnesota rushers just 17 yards on 22 carries. Pittsburgh’s defense also held Minnesota’s passing game to just 102 total yards for 119 total. This still marks the smallest offensive total in the long history of the Super Bowl. They also intercepted Tarkenton three times and recovered two more fumbles.
In the locker room, the Steelers celebrated the victory with their beloved owner, “The Chief” Art Rooney. As Commissioner Pete Rozelle presented the Lombardi Trophy to a humble Chief, the players applauded their owner with glee while chanting his nickname. The whole room seemed confident that this wouldn’t be the last time for this type of celebration.
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