The Pittsburgh Steelers against the Dallas Cowboys history is personal to me as I traveled over from the United Kingdom to see the teams play in Super Bowl XXX. It was my first adventure to a Steelers championship game, and it was the first time a Lombardi trophy, for which the Steelers played for, didn’t find its way back to Pittsburgh.
History reveals that in Pittsburgh the Steelers have won 8 and lost 7, but on the road, they fall behind 5-9. From 1965 until 1972, the Steelers lost seven straight, but the Same Old Steelers were improving under their new head coach Chuck Noll and the two teams were destined to meet in the Steelers’ second Super Bowl appearance when they came out on top. Lynn Swann’s 64-yard touchdown catch sealed the 21-17 win in Super Bowl X.
The victory against, “America’s Team,” began a rivalry that would endure throughout the seventies.
They met in the regular season three years year later when the Steelers buried the Cowboys 28-13. The former Pitt running back and Aliquippa native, Tony Dorsett, who was the Cowboys number one draft pick that year was given a loud ovation as he came onto the field. He left feeling disappointed. “I don’t think I have anything to be happy about,” he said. We didn’t win the ball game.”
In 1978, the Steelers went 7-0 before finishing 14-2 to earn the top seed in the AFC. They destroyed Denver 33-10 and crushed the Oilers 34-5 in the playoffs before finding their way to Miami for Super Bowl XIII.
Their opponents would be the defending champions Cowboys whose 12-4 record in the regular season finished with six straight wins. The Cowboys were the NFC’s second seed but would shut out the number one Rams 28-0 in the championship game to earn a place opposite the Steelers in the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys’ Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson liked to shoot his mouth off and provide plenty of copy for the sports writers covering the big game. “The Steelers are intimidators,” he suggested. “What we plan to do is give them a taste of their own medicine. “
Coach Noll brushed the idea aside, “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.” Henderson increased the acrimony when he suggested Terry Bradshaw was so dumb “he couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him the c and the a.”
The teams were evenly matched with two quarterbacks that were on the top of their game. Bradshaw won his first AFC passing crown with a rating of 84.8 while Roger Staubach took the NFL title with 84.9.
The Steelers struck first with a John Stallworth 28-yard touchdown catch but the Cowboys took advantage of a Pittsburgh turnover to tie the game. Dallas took the lead with another Steelers’ gift when Mike Hegman returned a fumble recovery 37 yards for a score.
The Steelers hit straight back when Stallworth caught a 75-yard touchdown pass on a third down. Mel Blount then intercepted a Staubach pass to set the Steelers up for a Rocky Bleier 7-yard touchdown catch to give the Steelers a 21-14 half time lead.
The Cowboys’ defense began to control the game in the third quarter keeping the Steelers to only one first down, but their offense failed to capitalize. On a third and three on Pittsburgh’s 10-yard line, Cowboys’ Jackie Smith was open in the end zone. Staubach saw his receiver and threw the pass that bounced off Smith’s chest as he slipped to the turf. Dallas settled for a field goal to reduce their deficit.
At the beginning of the final quarter, Bradshaw led his team on a drive of 86 yards that finished with a 22-yard touchdown run from Franco Harris.
The Steelers grip on the game tightened after Randy White fumbled the kickoff after taking a hit from Tony Dungy. Dennis Winston recovered and one play later, Bradshaw threw over the top of the defensive backs to find Swann with an 18-yard touchdown pass that increased the Steelers lead to 35-17.
Needing three scores in six minutes, Dallas thrilled their fans and the neutrals with a fight back that began on their eleven. They overcame a Staubach sack that lost yards before Dorsett moved the chains before Billy Dupree finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown catch.
After the Cowboys onside kick went through Tony Dungy’s hands, Dennis Thurman recovered for Dallas. With a short field in front of him, Staubach led an aerial assault that Butch Johnson’s 9-yard touchdown catch completed to bring the Cowboys within four.
With just 22 seconds left to complete the miracle, the Cowboys onside kick fell into the solid hands of Rocky Bleier and Bradshaw could take a knee to see time expire. The Steelers took the 35-31 victory and became the first team to win three Super Bowls to continue Chuck Noll’s legacy.
Bradshaw had his first 300-yard passing game and with his four touchdowns earned the MVP award, but admitted, “I wasn’t sure we were in control until I fell on the ball at the end of the game.”
“I loved it. I can’t believe it,” offered Joe Greene. “It’s kind of unreal, three of ‘em (Super Bowls). It took the best to beat the best. They were probably the best competition we’ve had in the Super Bowl. It was truly a Colossal Bowl.”
“Our fans made me feel like the whole stadium was for the Steelers,” acknowledged John Stallworth.
“It was more exciting this time. Maybe it was the fans,” suggested Rocky Bleier.
“They showed me some class,” acknowledged Tony Dorsett. “They’re champions, true champions.”
After the game, Henderson was told that Bradshaw was sensitive about his intelligence and replied, “I would be too if I was Bradshaw,” before adding with a grin, “I was rating his intelligence, not his ability.”
Coach Noll was philosophical about his team’s victory and suggested, “I don’t think this team has peaked yet.” The following season, the Steelers also became the first team to win four Super Bowls.