SUPER BOWL X CHAMPIONS 1975 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

At what point do you begin to erase an earlier label that was given to you as a player?  Can you totally overcome a negative stigma associated with that label?  At what point does a team peak with its full talent on display??superbowlx

Just think that only a year and a half earlier, the Steelers were 3-1-1 at midseason, and mired in a quarterback controversy between “Jefferson St” Joe Gilliam and Terry Bradshaw. Pittsburgh won with defense and a running attack in spite of the quarterback. After alternating between the ineffective Gilliam and Bradshaw, Noll finally gave the nod to Bradshaw.

Many speculated Pittsburgh wasn’t ready for a black quarterback. Did you know the 1974 Steelers were the only Super Bowl champion that completed less than 50% of their passes?? Gilliam went 4-1-1 in his starts completing 45.3% of his passes (96 of 212) for 1,242 yards 4TDs and 8 interceptions. Bradshaw finished completing 45.3% of his throws (67 of 148) for 785 yards 7 TDs with 8 interceptions. Terry, having gone 5-2, was sacked more and threw interceptions at a higher rate than Gilliam. So he really never beat him out.

superbowlxblack2After an upset victory in Super Bowl IX established them as league champion, the confident Steelers rolled through the next year with Terry Bradshaw at the helm. The Steelers were led by their famous front four known as the “Steel Curtain”, their powerful running game, and Bradshaw received some credit for being the quarterback of the champs.  Yet the respect afforded the Steelers QB was begrudging and not to the level of previous winners like Unitas, Staubach, Greise, Dawson, Starr, or even Fran Tarkenton who hadn’t won one yet appeared in Super Bowls twice.

The 1975 season began with a first time champion who was one of the youngest teams in football.  They were just developing as a team having come through the ’74 season with 8 rookies on the roster.  They hadn’t hit their peak as a team. Even Bradshaw was just shaking off the bad play that had him labeled as “Lil Abner” and a “dumb” quarterback.

He hadn’t lived up to his billing as the number 1 player in the 1970 draft until now, but with a pair of second year receivers in Swann and Stallworth, they were developing to complement the running game.  The strength of this team was its defense and running game.  Franco Harris again rushed for 1000 yards and the Steelers went 12-2 in the regular season. The Steelers were beginning to become bigger than life with Joe Greene, LC Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, Jack Lambert and company.

The patch worn by each team in Super Bowl X.

The patch worn by each team in Super Bowl X.

Bradshaw had improved as a quarterback in 1975 as he emerged as a leader. He completed 57.7% (165 of 286) for 2,055 yards 18 TDs to just 9 picks. Yet his moment finally came in a Super Bowl performance that put him on the level of the quarterbacks who were treated with more acclaim. His stats were good but it was the way he stood strong in the pocket to deliver the game clinching 64 yard touchdown to Lynn Swann while being knocked out.

You could see he knew was going to get clocked as he side stepped Cowboy linebacker DD Lewis and gathered himself to throw deep. Much like present Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is thought of now. He was carried to his first Super Bowl by his teammates. In his second, he validated himself among the great quarterbacks by making the play to win the game.

super-bowl-logo-1975Super Bowl X validated the career of Terry Bradshaw and he didn’t have to look over his shoulder the rest of his career. Two more championship triumphs were to follow and this ring commemorated the Steelers becoming a dynasty. Bradshaw would go on to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, however the contributions of “Jefferson St” Joe Gilliam shouldn’t be forgotten.

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This article is dedicated in the memory of Joe Giliam.

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #6 1971 Baltimore Colts

One of the greatest defensive performances in NFL history happened in 1971. The defending Super Bowl champion Colts had the #1 defense and drug a struggling offense to the AFC Championship Game. They allowed the 2nd fewest yards per game mark in the NFL since 1970 with 203.7 yards. With only 140 points allowed, it would have been an NFL record had the ’69 Vikings not broken their old scoring record of 144 with 133.

Bubba smith coming off the ball.

Bubba smith coming off the ball.

One interesting aspect of the ’71 Colts was how anemic their once great passing offense had become.  The 38 year old Unitas completed just 52.3% of his passes for 3 TDs and 9 interceptions. Earl Morrall, who was 37, fared no better with an even lower 50.3% with 7 TDs to 12 ints. They were 21st in passing offense and 12th overall making the defense work harder.

During the ’71 season the defense held 7 of their 14 opponents to 10 points or less. Including 5 of their first 6. Baltimore’s D recorded 3 shutouts and held their first playoff opponent to 3 points. In facing 5 top ten offenses that year, they were 4-1 and held two of those to 10 points or less. Yet why aren’t they remembered??

Now the media anoints others of that era and obscures this team…lets compare a few:

  • 1971 Baltimore Colts – #1 overall / 203.7 yds all. / 140 points given up / 28 int
  • 1971 Dallas Cowboys – #3 overall / 243.3 yds all. / 222 points given up / 26 int
  • 1972 Miami Dolphins – #1 overall / 235.5 yds all. / 171 points given up / 26 int
  • 1970 Minnesota Vikings – #1 overall / 200.2 yds all. / 143 points given up / 28 int
  • 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers – #4 overall / 261.5 yds all. / 162 points given up / 27 ints

Right now fans of the Doomsday Defense, The No Name Defense, and the Steel Curtain are saying to themselves ‘Its not all about stats”. Which is true until you realize this was a defending Super Bowl champion that made it back to the AFC Championship Game despite its offense. Had they won against Miami, they would have taken on the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. Well that is who they beat in Super Bowl V to become champions in the first place.

Mike Curtis tackling Cliff Branch.

Mike Curtis tackling Cliff Branch.

Led by Pro Bowlers DE Bubba Smith, MLB Mike Curtis, LB Ted Hendricks, SS Jerry Logan, and FS Rick Volk, its amazing only Hendricks is in the Hall of Fame. Curtis definitely should be but when you think of Hendricks making the Hall that is primarily from his work with the Raiders.

This was the last hurrah for the Colts as everything came apart starting in 1972. That was the year owner Carroll Rosenbloom swapped franchises with Robert Irsay. Head Coach Don McCafferty fired, John Unitas sent to the bench and the run as an NFL elite team ended.

Yet a tremendous performance by the defense in 1971 allowed them to hang on for one more season.

Dedicated to the memories of Don McCafferty, Bubba Smith, & Carroll Rosenbloom

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #9 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were definitely known as a defensive football team. They came of age during their run leading up to Super Bowl IX, but it was in the following two seasons they were at their zenith. The late Chuck Noll had a roster that entered its prime on the defensive side first after drafting DT “Mean” Joe Greene in 1969.

The banner that hung in Three Rivers Stadium honoring the Front Four.

The banner that hung in Three Rivers Stadium honoring the Front Four.

As defending Super Bowl champion, everyone gave them their best shot. For all the talk of the ’76 version, this team was equally stout. They only allowed 162 points while holding 8 of 14 opponents to 10 or fewer points. This didn’t include the Cincinnati Bengals, who under Paul Brown and Bill Walsh fashioned the league’s #2 ranked offense. The Steelers did hold them to 24 and 14 points to sweep them as they finished 12-2 to Cincy’s 11-3.

In fact the ’75 AFC Central was the first time in history 3 teams finished with at least 10 wins thanks to the 10-4 Oilers. Take away the games with the Steelers and the Bengals finished 11-1 and Houston 10-2 v the rest of the NFL. Pretty significant to go 4-0 against these two then wouldn’t you say??

When it comes to quality opponents, two of the Steeler’s 8 games of 10 or less allowed  came against top 10 offenses that year. Now add in both the AFC Divisional playoff and the AFC Championship where they gave up 10 points in both wins over Baltimore (12th offense) and Oakland (4th in offense). Then they made it to Super Bowl X and beat the 3rd best offense in the Dallas Cowboys while only yielding 17.

Joe Greene was the 1st Steeler drafted in the Chuck Noll era.

Joe Greene was the 1st Steeler drafted in the Chuck Noll era.

Now this is a heavyweight champ that left little standing in their wake defensively. The lone blemish?? OJ Simpson and Buffalo’s #1 ranked offense got off on them in a 30-21 win. “The Juice” broke for over 200 yards in Three Rivers Stadium. Buffalo ran for 308 yards in that game.

All that withstanding, the Steelers sent 3/4ths of their secondary to the Pro Bowl. Cornerback Mel Blount, who led the league with 11 interceptions, joined FS Mike Wagner and SS Glen Edwards. These guys were behind a good group of Linebackers that included fellow Pro Bowlers Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, and Jack Ham. Yes all three made the Pro Bowl. Once you follow that up with DT “Mean” Joe Greene and DE LC Greenwood, you have 8 of the starting 11 in the Pro Bowl….. Eight!! Come on…that is beyond the college try. Now you know why the ’78 Steelers didn’t make the top ten.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

This article is dedicated in the memory of DT Ernie Holmes, DE LC Greenwood, DE Dwight White, and former Head Coach Chuck Noll who passed last week.

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NFL.Com Bracketology: 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers v. 1990 New York Giants

Roger Staubach ran for his life in Super Bowl X as Dwight White and the Steelers sacked him 7 times in the game.

Neither of these teams have cheerleaders. If they did they would have to wear shoulder pads for this one for it would be a bloodbath.  A game of nothing but hitting. The smashmouth Giants from the NFC East which began 10-0 and finished13-3 and the 12-2 defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers at the height of their power. Each had to endure physical conference championship games and Super Bowls to make it to this game.

In Pittsburgh’s scenario, they had to beat the revenge minded Oakland Raiders 16-10 to make it to Super Bowl X. However George Atkinson gave the Steelers a going away present by knocking out Lynn Swann on an icy field. Yes, we mean a boxing ten count! Joe Greene had to come take him off the field. Then hold off the Cinderella Cowboys 21-17 in the best of the first 10 Super Bowls. In that one, K Roy Gerela wound up with bruised ribs after tackling Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson on a kickoff return.

Did we mention knockout??

Well Terry Bradshaw was in the locker room for the last 6:24 of the game after suffering from a concussion after being hit by Cowboy Larry Cole. However the Steeler defense did most of the hitting during this era and in 1976 were so strong the league had to put in rules to legislate them out of dominance. In that year during a 9 game stretch, they gave up only 28 points while shutting out 5 of their last 9 opponents!! Yikes!! But alas we have to talk about the 1975 edition…

Leonard Marshall clobbers Joe Montana and knocks him out of the 1990 NFC Championship Game. He doesn’t return to action until the final game of the 1992 season against the Detroit Lions.

The ’90 Giants had to bludgeon their way through two time defending champion San Francisco on the road in the NFC Championship Game. In what was one of the most physical games in NFL history, each team had their quarterbacks knocked out of the game. For the Giants, Jeff Hostetler made it back onto the field to lead a game winning drive. As for Joe Montana?? Giant DE Leonard Marshall hit him with what NFL Films narrator Harry Kalas called “The Shot Heard ‘Round the Football World”. After evading a charging Lawrence Taylor, Montana sidestepped into a hit that would knock him out of football for nearly 2 years.

The injury list compiled on that play for Joe? A bruised sternum, bruised ribs, a concussion, and a broken bone in his hand. If you were a fan of hitting, it was the game of the century. Then the Giants outlasted the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV with a defensive masterpiece. They only employed 2 linemen and proceeded to funnel Bills receivers to the linebackers and started punishing Andre Reed crossing the middle.

Ottis “OJ” Anderson falling forward for positive yards was the tough runner that powered the Giants.

Each team was a run first team with Super Bowl XXV MVP Ottis (OJ) Anderson (The [[_]]) who would gain maybe 70 yards rushing to somewhat offset Franco Harris with about 95 yards. A young Terry Bradhshaw throwing to first time starters John Stallworth and Lynn Swann would have trouble with Mark Collins and Everson Walls. Collins was the best CB ever to cover Jerry Rice so putting him on Swann wouldn’t be an issue. Lankier Everson Walls on lanky John Stallworth would be a fun matchup.

What would keep the Giants in the game was the fact that they were the first team in NFL history that averaged less than a turnover a game. Only 13 in a 16 game season. Even in Super Bowl XXV, they didn’t commit a single turnover. Steeler DT Joe Greene and the late Ernie Holmes would jam the middle closed on C Bart Oates and Gs William Roberts and Bob Kratch. After all with Greene (Hall of Famer) we’re talking of the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year from 1974.

His play at “Stunt Tackle” would kill the Giants ability to call blocking audibles in this game. LT Jumbo Elliot would be able to handle the late Dwight White but RT Doug Riesenberg would struggle with LC Greenwood.  Hall of Fame linebacker’s Jack Lambert and Jack Ham would battle Anderson on running situations but were agile enough to track of Dave Meggett on 3rd downs. The “Tampa 2” defense really started in Pittsburgh with a 220lbs. Lambert who could get 20 yards downfield early in his career.

Hall of Fame member and 2 time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Joe Greene would wreak havoc on the Giants interior line.

With 3/4 of the Steel Curtain wreaking havoc on a backup in Giant QB Jeff Hostetler the Steelers would pull away 27-15. Lawrence Taylor and Leonard A. Marshall could run stunts on LT John Kolb who was smallish for a tackle and would struggle with double teams on Marshall and would flat struggle with Lawrence rushing hard upfield. LB Carl Banks at 250lbs. would manhandle Steeler TEs Larry Brown and Randy Grossman.

However with a few inside traps Rocky Bleier would flash for a few inside gains to keep Steeler drives alive. If Hostetler had more experience, the Giants would stand to win this but the Steel Curtain would get to him on passing downs. Joe Greene would easily be the MVP of this game. For that reason you have to go Steelers.

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