NFL Bracketology: 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers v. 1981 Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals coach Forrest Gregg led the Bengals past the rival Steelers and into Super Bowl XVI.

Alright, raise your hand if you know who was responsible for halting one of the most revered dynasties in NFL history?? It was the Cincinnati Bengals THAT ENDED THE STEELERS DYNASTY!

In 1979, the final season the Steelers won a Super Bowl, they lost to an 0-6 Bengals team 34-10. Then in 1980 the Bengals SWEPT the Steelers who went 9-7 allowing the Browns to win the AFC Central 11-5 ending the Steelers dynasty. Then for good measure, in 1981 the Bengals SWEPT the Steelers again to hammer the last nails in Pittsburgh’s dynasty coffin enroute to their Super Bowl XVI appearance. The Bengals beat the Steelers 5 out of 6 times and you’re asking why would they belong here?

Terry Bradshaw drops back during the first half of Super Bowl XIII.

That being said, the ’81 Bengals would have lost in a competitive game to the ’78 Steelers who were at the height of their power (offense, defense & experience). As a defense they peaked in 1976 but once the offensive rules were liberated, Terry Bradshaw came into his own as an elite passer and threw for 28 TDs in 1978.

The defense didn’t have to be as good as 1976 because the offense, still with 1,000 yard rusher Franco Harris, was the most complete in the NFL. Still they only allowed 195 points for the season (Denver was second with 198) and this team roared to a 14-2 record. Their dynasty apex (ed) somewhere during the 3rd quarter of Super Bowl XIII against the Dallas Cowboys.

In that game we watched Roger Staubach, after the Jackie Smith TD pass drop, start hitting receiver after receiver bringing Dallas back from a 35-17 deficit to within 35-31. Thank God Rocky Blier recovered that onside kick. The Steeler defense was running on fumes by the end of the game and it carried over into 1979 and especially in the 1979 playoffs. They were never as strong as this 1978 team.

The Cincinnati Bengals were built to compete with the Pittsburgh Steelers and were strong on the line of scrimmage. Pete Johnson and Charles Alexander would be able to run but not with as much success as Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Steve Furness and John Banaszak would bend but not break.

Also in 1978 and 1979 the Steelers had to blitz more to get pressure on the quarterback.Look at the Super Bowl XIII and XIV highlights and you’ll see it. How do we know this? In Super Bowl XIII against Dallas, the Steelers blitzed with an 8 man front that Staubach burned for a 39 yard TD to Tony Hill to tie the game at 7-7.

Bengal QB Ken Anderson would have success throwing intermediate passes which are effective against this blitz. You forget that Bill Walsh and the west coast offense is really Paul Brown’s offense as it was taught to Walsh in Cincinnati.

You also forget that Ken Anderson had been a league passing champion in the mid 1970s and led Cincy to the playoffs in ’73 and ’74. So the Bengals had some success and would have been able to get deep at least twice in this game with lanky rookie Cris Collinsworth.

The difference is that LB Reggie Williams, DE Eddie Edwards, DE Ross Browner, and LBs Glen Cameron and Bo Harris were physical and emotional players but couldn’t make enough big plays against the 1978 Steelers and would lose. 34-18. Against the ’78 Steelers they wouldn’t win but I already showed you how they owned the Steelers after that…so don’t doubt their being mentioned in this tournament.

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