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.

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Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #4 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers

Now how could we have a category on the best defenses and defenders in NFL history and not include the Pittsburgh Steelers?? As we moved into the 1970′s following the merger, we saw the hashmarks narrowed in 1974 and the goal posts moved to the end line to provide offenses more room to operate. Scoring had been down for much of the first half of the decade and it was thought this additional field to cover would hamper defenses. Especially those with burly MLB types that had limited range tracking sideline to sideline, or defending the pass.

No one could run on the '76 Steelers

No one could run on the ’76 Steelers

Enter Jack Lambert. A converted outside linebacker who stood 6’4 and stayed at a playing weight of 220 lbs. the majority of his career. What he brought to the table was the speed to get further back than the Willie Lanier’s and the Dick Butkus’, a prior generation’s middle linebackers who were mainly there to stuff the run. His ability to get past twenty yards in pass defense was the impetus for the Steelers to run what is NOW misnamed the “Tampa 2″.

It started in Pittsburgh because against the run and rushing the passer, Ernie Holmes, Joe Greene, Dwight White, and LC Greenwood were the finest front four of their era….possibly football history. Lambert, along with outside linebackers Andy Russell, and Jack Ham, only needed to clean up against the run and were already a step back ready to clog the middle and flat areas against the slower tight ends of that era. The result??

A defense put together from astute drafting grew into one of menace that powered the Steelers to victories in both Super Bowls IX and X. In Super Bowl IX the Steelers held the Vikings to just 17 yards rushing for the game. A record that stood until Super Bowl XX. They stood tall and defended against a frantic last second effort in Super Bowl X. So strong was the Steeler defense, Coach Chuck Noll ran the ball on 4th and 9 and let the Cowboys have the ball at their own 40 yard line leaving it up to the defense to win the game. While winning a second straight world title they set the Super Bowl record for sacks with 7.

A young team with an unprecedented chance to win a third straight Super Bowl went into the 1976 season with their front four in their prime.With Terry Bradshaw growing up as a quarterback and growing receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann with one of history’s finest defense….What would they do for an encore?? Could they threepeat??

This team was primarily responsible for the upcoming rule changes of 1978 and this was their best season. For the year they were #1 overall (237.4 y/pg) gave up just 138 points and held 7 of 8 straight opponents to 10 points or less. Five of those came by shutout and the first modern team to record 3 in a row. In fact they only allowed 2 touchdowns in the last 10 games and those came in the same game. A 32-16 win over the Oilers. They had a string of 25 quarters where they didn’t allow a touchdown. They were so good they had to be legislated out of business.

Starting in 1978 they instituted the “Mel Blount Rule” where receivers could only be jammed / hit within the first five yards of the scrimmage line. Blount was bludgeoning receives all down the field until the pass was thrown. Pass protectors were allowed to extend their arms to better protect against the Steel Curtain. The head slap was another tactic taken away from Pittsburgh’s charging front four in 1978. All of these rule changes can be traced back to this group.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

One of the best in history and number 4 on The Chancellor of Football’s list.

Dedicated to the memories of Art Rooney, Chuck Noll, Ernie Holmes, LC Greenwood, & Dwight White.

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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The Soul Of the Game: 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

Now how could we have a category on the best defenses and defenders in NFL history and not include the Pittsburgh Steelers?? As we moved into the 1970’s following the merger, we saw the hashmarks narrowed in 1974 and the goal posts moved to the end line to provide offenses more room to operate. Scoring had been down for much of the first half of the decade and it was thought this additional field to cover would hamper defenses. Especially those with burly MLB types that had limited range tracking sideline to sideline, or defending the pass.

Enter Jack Lambert.

A converted outside linebacker who stood 6’4 and stayed at a playing weight of 220 lbs. the majority of his career. What he brought to the table was the speed to get further back than the Willie Lanier’s and the Dick Butkus’, a prior generation’s middle linebackers who were mainly there to stuff the run. His ability to get past twenty yards in pass defense was the impetus for the Steelers to run what is NOW misnamed the “Tampa 2”.

It started in Pittsburgh because against the run and rushing the passer, Ernie Holmes, Joe Greene, Dwight White, and LC Greenwood were the finest front four of their era….possibly football history. Lambert, along with outside linebackers Andy Russell, and Jack Ham, only needed to clean up against the run and were already a step back ready to clog the middle and flat areas against the slower tight ends of that era. The result??

A defense put together from astute drafting grew into one of menace that powered the Steelers to victories in both Super Bowls IX and X. In Super Bowl IX the Steelers held the Vikings to just 17 yards rushing for the game. A record that stood until Super Bowl XX. They stood tall and defended against a frantic last second effort in Super Bowl X. So strong was the Steeler defense, Coach Chuck Noll ran the ball on 4th and 9 and let the Cowboys have the ball at their own 40 yard line leaving it up to the defense to win the game. While winning a second straight world title they set the Super Bowl record for sacks with 7.

A young team with an unprecedented chance to win a third straight Super Bowl went into the 1976 season with their front four in their prime.With Terry Bradshaw growing up as a quarterback and growing receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann with one of history’s finest defense….What would they do for an encore?? Could they threepeat??

Well the Steelers didn’t win that Super Bowl and after falling to the Denver Broncos in 1977, they returned to win Super Bowl’s XIII and XIV. It was the impetus to stop this defense along with the Denver Broncos 1977 performance (18 TDs and 148 points allowed) that made the rules makers make changes for  the upcoming 1978 season.

In fact the biggest of these rule changes was to nullify Steeler cornerback Mel Blount. Standing 6’3 and weighing in upwards of 200 lbs. he would manhandle receivers as they tried to run their patterns downfield. This new rule only allowed cornerbacks to only chuck a receiver under 5 yards. From there the receiver could run free untouched where in prior years a receiver could get hit by linebackers or safeties as well if the ball hadn’t been thrown. It’s actually referred to as the “Mel Blount Rule”. Another allowed offensive linemen to extend their arms while pass blocking to nullify Pittsburgh’s pass rush.

The Steelers dominance ended after their 1979 championship. The team had aged yet sent linebackers Lambert and Ham to the Hall of Fame along with two time NFL defensive player of the year Joe Greene. Was this the greatest ever defense?? Were they better than the 1985 Chicago Bears?? The 2000 Baltimore Ravens?? The 1969 Minnesota Vikings?? The 1968 Baltimore Colts?? Lets hear from you…

…and by the way, just to stick it to the rules makers who changed the game on them. The Steelers set the record for a 16 game season with only 195 points given up.

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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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