SUPER BOWL XIV CHAMPION1979 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Super Bowl XIV was the culmination of the Pittsburgh Steelers and their incredible record as a football dynasty. It was their 4th title in 6 years. They had started as one of the greatest defenses with a solid running game. Yet they evolved into one of the league’s most explosive passing games with the ’78 rule changes. For several reasons this was one of history’s most unique champions. There were storm clouds on the horizon however…

superbowlxivIn 1979 the Steelers were a defending champion and were the NFL’s best but it was evident teams were catching this aging team.

One of the most unique elements of this champion is how mistake prone they were. Did you know this was the only Super Bowl champion that won the title while leading the NFL in turnovers?? They had 52 turnovers and still went 12-4. In two of those games they turned it over 9 times in a 34-10 loss to Cincinnati, then 8 more in a 35-7 loss to San Diego.

Super-Bowl-XIV-ringHowever they could show extreme force as they beat Denver 42-7 and Dallas 14-3 in Super Bowl XIII 1/2. They bludgeoned two playoff teams that played in the last two Super Bowls in back to back weeks. These came during a four game stretch where they held each opponent to under 10 points. Yet they were bookended by the numbing losses to Cincinnati and San Diego.

The other unique aspect of this team is it’s the only champion ever comprised of players who had only played for Pittsburgh. All original draft picks and free agents. When they made it to Super Bowl XIV, it was almost a celebration of the Steeler way when they faced the Rams with 3 former Steeler coaches in Defensive Coordinator Bud Carson, Woody Widenhofer, and Dan Radakovich. These men were a part of the dynasty since they were on the staff back in Super Bowl IX and X.

super-bowl-logo-1979When this team was challenged they could focus and win on experience. Truth be told the tell tale signs were there this would be the last year they would be ahead of the NFL pack. Their 31-19 win over the Rams out in The Rose Bowl was more a curtain call for those great aging Steelers. Chuck Noll’s men took their place as one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

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SUPER BOWL IX CHAMPION 1974 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The first NFL championship in 42 years where the game ball was given to Steeler patriarch, the late Art Rooney. It had been a long time coming for all the decades of despair this team had been through. From the war time merging with the Philadelphia Eagles to form the “Steagles”. To the failed ability to recognize quarterback talent by cutting future Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas. Nothing good had happened for this organization for decades.

Enter Chuck Noll.

superbowlixNoll was hired to be the Head Coach after serving under Don Shula’s Baltimore Colts regime in 1969. His last game with the organization was the loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. By then Noll was defensive coordinator after serving for years as a defensive line coach, most notably with the early 60’s San Diego Chargers in the AFL.

They say the player is the father to the coach a man becomes and Noll had been a lineman in his playing days. So instead of building his team first with a quarterback or featured runner, he drafted defensive tackle Joe Greene. He would build his defensive masterpiece from the ground up. A point often forgotten is the selection of LC Greenwood in the 10th round that same year.

A closer look at the front of the ring.

A closer look at the front of the ring.

In 1970, quarterback Terry Bradshaw was selected as the #1 overall pick. They finally had their quarterback of the future but the chief building block was Noll’s defense and in particular his defensive line. Five years later they were the best in pro football and came to be known as “The Steel Curtain”

Of course the Steelers had the great class of 1974 to put the finishing touch on what would become a football dynasty. However a look back and you can truly see how Pittsburgh’s first NFL championship had AFL roots.

If the AFL hadn’t been around to offer Chuck Noll his first coaching job at the professional level in 1960, would he have been in place to take the Steelers job in 1969?? Also look at the make up of the Steeler team from a draft and racial standpoint. Mining talent from historically black colleges and smaller schools was an AFL trait, not an NFL one. What Noll did in Pittsburgh was recreate the San Diego defensive line of the early 1960s he wasn’t allowed to in Baltimore.Steel_Curtain_Time_Magazine

  • Joe Greene – North Texas St.
  • LC Greenwood – Arkansas AM & N
  • Ernie Holmes – Texas Southern
  • Dwight White – East Texas State

So think of Joe Greene as a latter day Earl Faison or Ernie Ladd who had come from Grambling. By the time we include the late quarterback “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam from Tennessee State, Mel Blount from Southern, and John Stallworth from Alabama A&M, this team resembles the 1965 San Diego Chargers or 1969 Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL more than it did the 1968 Baltimore Colts.

super-bowl-logo-1974Many former players have talked about the racial quota that existed in the NFL back when. Well along with Vince Lombardi and Hank Stram, Chuck Noll broke that system for good and let talent flourish. First the Steelers took $1 million to move in with the AFL teams to form the AFC in 1970 with the league merger. Than Chuck Noll built the best AFL team he could through the draft

In doing so he brought Pittsburgh a championship it so desperately sought. It would not be the last.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

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This bauble was what each player and coach received after their 16-6 win vs the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

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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Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History: Honorable Mention

When Malcolm Smith crossed the goal line to put Seattle up 22-0 in last February’s Super Bowl, pundits were already arguing where they ranked among the NFL’s greatest defenses. Here at Taylor Blitz Times we wanted to let some time pass before we waxed too philosophical about their exploits. As the keeper of the flame, it’s up to The Chancellor of Football to accurately place each great defense. We will do this in 3 parts.

Smith's 69 yard interception in Super Bowl XLVIII ended the competitive phase of the game.

Smith’s 69 yard interception in Super Bowl XLVIII ended the competitive phase of the game and trumpeted the question: Where would you rank Seattle’s defense with  the all-time greats??

One of the criteria for greatest ever defenses you have to ask is: How dominant were they at their peak? They had to bring the lumber over an entire season. These defenses had to be stout with a performance that stands the test of time in remembrance. Without further adieu we have to get on with the Honorable Mention. Those right outside the top ten.

1977 Denver Broncos – The original Orange Crush defense that led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII and Denver’s first ever winning season. This was the first great full time 3-4 defense that yielded only 148 points (10.6 pts / game) and just 18 touchdowns for the season. Holding 7 of their opponents to 10 points or less.

Even with an offense that turned it over 8 times, the still held Dallas to 27 points in Super Bowl XII.

Even with an offense that turned it over 8 times, the still held Dallas to 27 points in Super Bowl XII.

Led by Randy Gradishar, ESPN’s Tom Jackson, and the late Lyle Alzado this defense had an unheard of 4 All Pros concentrated on this defense and 5 Pro Bowlers. This not ready for primetime group came out of nowhere and swallowed the Steelers and Raiders in the playoffs before falling to Dallas in New Orleans in Super Bowl XII. This group swarmed like bees and ushered in the era where 3-4 defenses took over the NFL.

1978 Pittsburgh Steelers – In the first year in which the NFL moved to a 16 game schedule, this group set the new record with fewest points allowed in a season with 195. Powered by the Steel Curtain, they held 8 of 16 opponents to 10 or fewer points. This group did more blitzing than in years past to get to the quarterback. They did have 5 Pro Bowl defenders and 1 All Pro in Jack Ham, but there were stronger incarnations of the Steeler defense.

A fact that gets lost is going into Super Bowl XIII, the consensus was Pittsburgh force vs the finesse Cowboys. Yet it was Dallas whose defense was ranked #2 and Pittsburgh’s #3, For the season they yielded 260.5 yards per game, unofficially had 52 sacks and 27 interceptions which ranked 7th. They peaked in the playoffs holding both Denver and Houston to 10 points and 5 points respectively. Yet gave up some serious candy to the Dallas offense (320 yards & 31 points)

1968 Baltimore Colts – The team that is best known for coming up short in Super Bowl III against the AFL’s New York Jets. In The Chancellor of Football’s estimation, this was the best team that Don Shula ever coached and one of his defensive assistants was the late Chuck Noll. This defense held 10 of 14 regular season opponents to 10 or fewer points. At one point late in the season, they gave up 1 touchdown over 25 quarters including a string of 16 straight quarters w/out a touchdown allowed.

md-darkroom-hutchins-curtisThe Colts of ’68 shut out 3 regular season opponents and the fourth was against the Browns who gave the 13-1 team their only loss. That drubbing was avenged 34-0 in the NFL Championship Game. They even set the record with only 144 points allowed. Between 1967 & 1968 their record was 24-2-2. If only this team had won on January 12th 1969…..but….

2000 Tennessee Titans – Lost in the delirium over the great 2000 Ravens defense, is the fact they finished #2 to the Titans that year in rankings. Jeff Fisher’s bunch only allowed 238.9 yards per game and held 6 opponents to 10 points or less over the campaign.

Second year DE Jevon Kearse led the team with 11.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Samri Rolle had 7 interceptions he returned for 140 yards and a touchdown. SS Blaine Bishop had 84 tackles to go with 2.5 sacks but 0 interceptions. All three were Pro Bowlers but only Samari was an All Pro Player. One issue is they didn’t force enough turnovers (29) and they finished just +1 in turnover ratio. These are poor marks considering they only saw 1 Pro Bowl quarterback the entire season. Yet they were #1 against the pass (151 yds /gm) and #3 against the run (86 yds /gm).

1987 San Francisco 49ers – One of the last teams to finish with the NFL’s #1 offense and defense happened with this group in 1987. They were gaining momentum allowing only 1 touchdown in the final 16 quarters of the season and none in the final 12 as the playoffs beckoned. They held 5 opponents to 10 or fewer points including two shutouts in their final three games. One of which was a 41-0 hammering of the NFC Central Champion Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. 

Led by All Pro and Pro Bowler Ronnie Lott (5 ints) this group was #1 against the pass (165 yds /gm) while only yielding 273 yards for the game. What makes this more remarkable are 3 games were played with replacement players due to the strike. Had the season been 16 games instead of 15 and no strike, these numbers could have been even better. They were also #5 against the run (107.4 yds / gm) thanks to All Pro and Pro Bowl Nose Tackle Michael Carter.

Jim Burt knocking Joe Montana out with a concussion in their 49-3 rout in the '86 playoffs.

Jim Burt knocking Joe Montana out with a concussion in their 49-3 rout in the ’86 playoffs.

1986 New York Giants – A romanticized defense that knocked 5 quarterbacks out on their way to the Super Bowl XXI championship. Yet they were #2 in 1986 and allowed 39 more yards per game than the #1 Chicago Bears with 297.3 yards per game. Second biggest discrepancy between #1 and #2 since 1970.

Led by League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Lawrence Taylor’s 20 sacks, New York held 5 teams to 10 points or fewer during the regular season. They held their 2 NFC playoff opponents to 3 & 0 points respectively. There were 4 Pro Bowl defenders on this defense in LB Harry Carson, NT Jim Burt, DE Leonard Marshall, and the aforementioned LT.

2008 Pittsburgh Steelers – Close but no cigar. This team finished with the #1 ranking allowing just 237.2 yards per game. They held 8 opponents to 10 or fewer points yet gave up 223 for the season. One mark against them is they only faced 2 Pro Bowl QBs and lost both games. Losing 24-20 to Peyton’s Colts and 21-14 against Eli’s Giants. This was also the year they beat the Patriots 33-10 with Matt Cassel at QB not an injured Tom Brady. Big difference. This group had 51 sacks but only 20 interceptions. The last time we saw them, Kurt Warner passed for 377 yards, 2nd highest in Super Bowl history, and needed Big Ben to bail them out with a game winning pass with :32 left.

This group did have NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison and Pro Bowl SS Troy Palamalu who would win the award 2 years later. Harrison had 16 sacks with 7 forced fumbles. James Farrior (122 tackles) was the 3rd and final Pro Bowler on a talented roster which included LaMarr Woodley (11 sacks).  They were a world champion but this group didn’t perform high enough against the best competition. The top ten is a Sugar Ray Leonard’s list, the honorable mention is where Thomas Hearns resides.

Dwight Smith capped off Super Bowl XXXVII with 2 defensive touchdowns. Should have been the MVP.

Dwight Smith capped off Super Bowl XXXVII with 2 defensive touchdowns. Should have been the MVP.

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The final team to miss the call to the top ten was the 2002 Buccaneers. The undisputed #1 defense that year. However playing in the new NFC South they feasted on patsies. On 3 occasions they took on top 10 offenses and they lost two of those games to Philadelphia (10th) and Pittsburgh (5th).

This team yielded 252.8 yards per game had 43 sacks and 31 interceptions which ranked 6th and 1st respectively. This team only gave up 196 points while holding 9 regular season opponents to 10 or fewer points. However a closer look reveals they came against offenses ranked 26th, 18th, 14th, 23rd, 31st, 31st, 12th, 14th, and 29th. Chris Redman (who??) quarterbacked the Ravens who was the first in this group. While NFL journeyman Jim Miller led the Bears in the last game.

This team fielded 5 Pro Bowl players in NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles, Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice (15.5 sacks), and S John Lynch. This group scored on defense. Brooks tied the NFL record with 4 defensive touchdowns and CB Dwight Smith set a Super Bowl record with 2 interception returns for touchdowns. Their numbers and performance should get them in until you look at the competition. Someone reading this is going to describe how they throttled the #1 Raider offense in the Super Bowl. Yet how much do you attribute to Monte Kiffin’s defense or Jon Gruden knowing the Raider offense and personnel??

Thanks for reading and now its time for the top 10.

The Immaculate Reception Encore: 1972 AFC Championship Game

One of the unique themes in NFL history is whenever a team has a famous miracle playoff win, those teams rarely win the Super Bowl. Well even the NFL championship for that matter when you think back to Detroit’s 31-27 win over San Francisco in the 1957 playoffs. In that game the 49ers were up 24-7 in the 3rd quarter only to lose to a series of backups for the Lions. It was the only instance where a miracle playoff win would culminate with a league championship. Fast forward to The Immaculate Reception and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1972 playoffs.

The No Name Defense stopping Franco Harris in the '72 AFC Championship Game.

The No Name Defense stopping Franco Harris in the ’72 AFC Championship Game.

After winning their first ever playoff game over the Oakland Raiders, most people forget they ran smack into the undefeated Miami Dolphins. As far as the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers were playing with house money. They were one game away from the Super Bowl and were able to host the championship game since it was rotated by division back then.

Pete Rozelle didn’t institute home field advantage until 1978. He did it as a means to reward not only the team with the best record. He wanted to insure teams would play all the way through their schedule and not take the final weeks off. Yet in ’72, the 14-0 Miami Dolphins traveled to the 11-3 steel city to take on Franco’s Italian Army for the right to go to Super Bowl VII.

It was the first of only three times Don Shula and Miami would meet Chuck Noll’s Steelers in the playoffs during their coaching careers. Noll had served on Shula’s staff in Baltimore and had ties dating back to the Cleveland Browns of the 1950’s where they were both players.

Ironically the case remains. Why is it when a team should be riding an emotional lift like a miracle finish in the playoffs, they don’t win it all?? It’s easy to say they let down but would it be more that they’re an incomplete team that gets exposed as competition gets better?? The ’72 Steelers (Immaculate Reception) the ’72 Cowboys (Roger’s 1st comeback) the ’75 Cowboys (Hail Mary) ’80 Cowboys (Duel In Dixie) ’86 Denver Broncos (The Drive) ’99 Tennessee Titans (Homerun Throwback) all fell short of winning it all….. The lone exception would be the 1981 San Francisco 49ers with The Catch. 

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

Chuck Noll would obviously make his mark, embarking on one of the greatest runs in history. Over the next 7 seasons, his team made the playoffs every year with their winning a Super Bowl in 4 of those seasons. We lost another legend with Noll’s passing Friday night. This article is dedicated to the Hall of Fame coach…

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.