Home Steelers 2023 Season Steelers History: Pittsburgh Leaves the Sad Sixties Behind

Steelers History: Pittsburgh Leaves the Sad Sixties Behind

by Gordon Dedman

Since these two teams first met in 1951, the San Francisco 49ers just edge the Pittsburgh Steelers 12-10 in games won.

The 49ers were initially part of the All-America Football Conference (AAC) that rivaled the NFL at the end of the forties. When the AAC folded, the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Colts joined the 49ers in moving to the NFL.

In the early days of the Steelers, owner Art Rooney often expressed his regret at his team’s losses and even suggested in 1940 that he would give it up if it continued to lose money. Fortunately for Steelers Nation, Art’s love of the game and his city meant he didn’t carry out his threat.

In the fifties and sixties, the Steelers and 49ers met seven times and the sad Steelers teams of those decades could muster only two wins. When the super seventies began the Same Old Steelers became a different proposition and they were no longer the doormat of their division.

The final game of 1973 saw the Steelers roll over the 49ers 37-14 to finish 10-4 for the season before losing the divisional playoff game in Oakland.

Four years later when the two teams next met, the Steelers had put their first two Lombardis in the trophy cabinet. Despite those Super Bowl wins, the Steelers felt they had something to prove after a disappointing loss to Oakland in the Conference championship game the previous season.

Before the game, Coach Noll was as confident as always. “As far as my feelings on this football team, it has great potential,” Noll offered. “But our potential hasn’t been realized. All you can go by is our last effort.”

The Steelers would be the first host of Monday Night Football for the new season. Under the spotlight of a national television audience, they needed to put their last effort, a 30-0 preseason loss in Dallas, behind them.

After that defeat, Mel Blount decided he would end his eight-week holdout. “It didn’t look the same team, and in a sense, I felt somewhat responsible,” said the All-Pro cornerback. The team would also be bolstered by the return of L.C. Greenwood from injury.

The Pittsburgh Steelers vs the San Franciso 49ers; September 19, 1977

While both defenses dominated the opening exchanges, the Steelers began to take control after a Jim Allen interception. Although the subsequent Steelers’ drive stalled on the 49ers’ 20, Coach Noll chose to go for it on a fourth and one. Franco Harris made the first down to move the chains. Breaking tackles, he finished the drive with a touchdown run of 14 yards as the game moved into the second quarter.

Roy Gerela added a 49-yard field goal that saw the Steelers take a 10-0 lead into the locker room at half time.

Both defenses continued their domination into the third quarter, broken only by Gerela kicking a 47-yard field goal.

The Steelers left it until the final period to shed the 49ers defensive blanket. A drive of 62 yards saw it finished by Harris and his second score with a 7-yard touchdown run.

A Harris fumble, which the 49ers recovered on the Steelers’ 22, gave San Francisco an outstanding opportunity to prevent the shutout, but the Steelers’ defense was not about to wilt. The defense held San Francisco to a field goal attempt which failed when Ken Harrison fumbled the snap.

Allen’s second interception of the game gifted the Steelers a first down with goal to go on their opponents’ 6. Despite a sack on Terry Bradshaw that moved the ball back, he threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to John Stallworth to complete the scoring and the shutout.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 27 vs the San Francisco 49ers 0

Franco Harris rushed for 100 yards for the twenty fifth time and added two touchdowns.

The 49ers quarterback Jim Plunkett had a woeful game against the Steelers’ defense. His 13 passes for 30 yards were negated by Steelers’ sacks for minus 30 yards. “I’ve always scored points in my career, always,” Plunkett lamented.

“We couldn’t pass. We couldn’t rush,” said San Francisco’s new coach Ken Meyer. “But I don’t think many people are going to move the ball up and down the field on Pitt.”

Even the usually stoic Coach Noll managed a smile after his team’s domineering display. “It was a great performance, all the way down the line. It was emotional.”

After such an authoritative display from their team, the fans were unanimous in agreement as they chanted, “We want Oakland. We want Oakland.” The Steelers next game would be against their old foes the Raiders.

They would lose in Oakland 16-7 but go on to finish the season 9-5 which saw them win their fourth straight AFC Central title before travelling to Denver where they lost the divisional playoff game.

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