And then there were two. “Real” football news can be quite rare in late May of any year, but the number of Super Bowl veterans on the South Side dwindled to two as the Steelers released Greg Warren, who handled the long snapping duties for the team since 2005, earning him rings in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.
Greg Warren tackles Solomon Patton early in the first quarter of the Steelers 2014 loss to Tampa @ Heinz Field. Photo Credit: Joe Sargent, Getty Images
The move was instantly panned by both professional journalists as well as bloggers (this site included), but Jim Wexell and other reporters informed that the Steelers had legitimate concerns about Greg Warrens durability. It would seem like those concerns were well founded, as Greg Warren himself related:
I would first like to thank the Steelers organization, coaches and training staff for their help and advice over the last few weeks. I had full intentions of playing this upcoming season, but in light of new information I’ve recently received from my doctors relating to a past injury, it has been determined that trying to compete in the 2017 season may be a risk to my long-term health. After discussing this with the Steelers, we have decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to release me at this point.
Chuck Noll’s Super Bowl teams were drafted together, matured together, won Super Bowls together, and then got old together.
Unfortunately, for reasons that go well beyond the scope of this blog post, Chuck Noll, Art Rooney Jr., Dick Haley and Bill Nunn struggled to restock the Steelers roster, even after mediocre records improved their drafting position.
Dwight White, Joe Greene, Ernie Holmes, Jack Lambert and L.C. Greenwood in the 1974 AFC Championship Game. Photo Credit: SI
This second era has been different, largely thanks to Dan Rooney’s wisdom, the Steelers were able to draft a franchise quarterback and add him to a team that was already Super Bowl ready.
After that with my age not yet breaking double digits, I had difficulty understanding why the Steelers struggled in the early 1980’s, not wanting to accept my older brother’s explanation that “All the Steelers have are old guys and rookies.”
It was difficult to follow the Steelers growing up in suburban DC in the pre-internet age. And by the time I started following the Steelers seriously again during the 1987 season I was in high school, and I was shocked to see that Super Bowl veterans such as Stallworth, Mike Webster and Donnie Shell were still playing.
At time it seemed like several generations of football has passed since the last Super Bowl, when in fact less time separated the Steelers from their last Lombardi than does now.
Time most certainly does move faster as you age.
Bit contributor or not, Steel Curtain Rising Thanks Greg Warren for helping bring home One for The Thumb and then completing the Super Bowl Six Pack, and wishes him the best as he begins his “Life’s Work.”
Super Bowl 52 is almost here. Unfortunately the Pittsburgh Steelers are not playing Super Bowl 52, but Steelers Nation can take pride because the Black and Gold still own more Lombardi Trophies than any other franchise.
With that in mind, Steel Curtain Rising gives you the 8 Greatest Steelers Super Bowl Plays.
Lynn Swann’s belief-defying Super Bowl X catch over Dalllas Mark Washington. Photo Credit: AP, via NY Daily News
Super Bowl IX – Dwight White Spearheads Defensive Dominance
Sometimes plays symbolize an era, other times it is a player. When the two converge , something special happens. It is fitting then that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense would author the first score in their first Super Bowl.
That only tells half the story.
Steel Curtain linemanDwight White got pneumonia the week before Super Bowl IX. He’d lost 18 pounds in the hospital. Chuck Noll and George Perless told Steve Furness to get ready to play. The morning of the Super Bowl, White called Ralph Berlin, the Steelers head trainer, and begged him to pick him up, as White was determined to be introduced.
After talking with Steelers Dr. John Best, they relented, and when they saw White struggling to even put on his jersey, they figured he’d pass out in warm ups and let him play.
White started, and the Minnesota Vikings attacked him immediately. They handed off to Dave Osborn on three straight plays, and Osborn ran directly to White. The results:
A loss, no gain, and a one-yard gain.
The game remained scoreless in the second quarter when the Vikings found themselves backed up against their own end zone. A bad snap left Fran Tarkenton scrambling for the ball. It rolled in the end zone. Tarkenton fell on it. Dwight White landed on him.
A safety might only be 2 points, but scoring one sends a message that a defense is imposing its will. The message of Dwight White’s safety in Super Bowl IX was loud and clear: The Steel Curtain had risen.
Lynn Swann never caught more than 60 passes in a season and retired with 336 catches to his name
For years, naysayers like Peter King used those statics to block his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Super Bowl X reveals why the likes of King were so sorely mistaken. Lynn Swann’s stat line from Super Bowl X reads 4-161 and one TD. Not bad, but it suggests nothing spectacular. (Tweet w/ embedded video available as of 2/6/16):
But it was the quality of the catches that Swann made that earned him the Super Bowl MVP Award. His acrobatic catches were works of sheer beauty and displayed such grace that decades after he retired fans who weren’t even born when Swann was playing were still saying, “That was a Lynn Swann Catch.”
Super Bowl XIII – Rocky Bleier Overcomes the Odds
Wounded while serving his country, in Vietnam Rocky Bleier wasn’t even supposed to walk again, let alone play football. Yet Bleier defied the odds, not only making the game, but earning a starting spot.
Even then, Rocky was low man on the totem pole of a Super Bowl offense that featured no fewer than 5 Hall of Famers.
26 seconds remained in the first half with the score tied at 14. Franco Harris had given the Steelers a 3rd and 1 at the Dallas Cowboys 7. Terry Bradshaw dropped back to pass and this is what happened (available as of 2/5/16 – watch it now before Roger Goodell’s YouTube police have it taken down):
Rocky Bleier would not be denied the touchdown, and added 7 points to the Steelers tally in a game they would ultimately win by 4….
Super Bowl XIV – Bradshaw, Stallworth & 60-Prevent-Slot-Hook-And-Go
History tends to paint the Super Steelers as an unstoppable juggernaut that authored an unbroken string of super-human plays en route to four Super Bowls in six years. The Steelers of the 70’s were good, but what made them great wasn’t their ability to blow everyone out of the water, but rather their ability to make plays when the game was on the line.
No Super Bowl showcases that ability better than Super Bowl XIV vs. the LA Rams
The 4th quarter had begun, and the Steelers trailed the Los Angeles Rams 19-17. Lynn Swann was out of the game, as was Theo Bell, the Steelers 3rd receiver. Everyone on the Rams staff, most of all former Steelers defensive coordinator Bud Carson, knew Terry Bradshaw would try to get the ball to John Stallworth. And on third and 8 at the Pittsburgh 27, Chuck Noll ordered Bradshaw to do that.
The play was “60-Prevent-Slot-Hook-And-Go” and the Steelers had failed miserably executing the play in practice, and neither Bradshaw nor Stallworth thought the play would work. Chuck Noll knew better. (Available as of 2/4/16):
As Art Rooney Jr. observed in his book Ruanadh, this is the result when you when you pair a Hall of Fame quarterback, with a Hall of Fame Wide Receiver and a Hall of Fame Coach.
Super Bowl XXX – Steelers Surprise Onsides Kick
The Steelers opened the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XXX down 7-10. Nine plays into the game’s final period, a Norm Johnson field goal narrowed the Steelers deficit to 10. On the side lines, special teams coach Bobby April came up to Bill Cowher, next NFL Films captured Bill Cowher into his head set, “Chan? Chan, I’m going with the surprise on sides. I’m not leaving anything in the bag.”
Norm Johnson executed the surprise on-sides kick perfectly, and Deon Figures recovered.
Neil O’Donnell led the Steelers down the field, and a Bam Morris touchdown made it 17-20 with the momentum decidedly in the Steelers favor… Of course, Steelers Nation would like to forget what happened after the Steelers defense forced a punt, but alas that too is part of history.
But so is Bill Cowher’s decision to call the surprise on sides. In terms of X’s and O’s, it may not have been the best play call in Steelers Super Bowl history, but it was certainly the boldest.
Super Bowl XL – Ike Taylor’s Interception
If Steelers Nation rightly remembers Bill Cowher’s first Super Bowl for its missed opportunities, it also must honor his final Super Bowl as the occasion where Cowher’s Steelers seized their own opportunities. The two scoring plays – Willie Parker’s 75 yard run and Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward stand out.
But those touchdowns bookended an even bigger play that ensured their relevance.
The Steelers were leading 14-3 in the middle of the third quarter when a Ben Roethlisberger interception gave the Seattle Seahawks new life. The Seahawks scored a touchdown. Seattle began the fourth quarter by marching down to the Steelers 19 where they threatened to take the lead. On 3rd and 18 Matt Hasselbeck got greedy and tried to hit Darrell Jackson deep.
The knock on Ike Taylor was that he couldn’t hold on to the interceptions. In his entire career, he picked off NFL quarterbacks 17 times. But three of those came in the post season, and none was more important than his interception of Matt Hasselbeck.
The play grounded the Seahawks rally, and set up the Steelers insurance touchdown that secured One for the Thumb with the Steelers win in Super Bowl XL.
Super Bowl XLIII – James Harrison’s Pick Six
Super Bowl XLIII will forever be remember for Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes, the drive that preceded it, and Larry Fitzgerald’s touchdown that made such heroics necessary. Fair enough. Both Fitzgerald and Holmes touchdowns could easily make “Top 10 Super Bowl Touchdown lists.”
But it says here that James Harrison authored an even bigger touchdown (available as of 2/4/16):
Why does Steel Curtain Rising rank James Harrison’s touchdown higher than Holmes?
Simply math settles the question.
Aside from James Harrison running the length of the field, the Cardinals were at least going to score 3 points on that drive. Looked at in that light, Harrison’s touchdown amounted to a 10 point swing in the Steelers favor in a game the Steelers won by four.
The play also revealed Silverback’s incredible discipline, instincts and sheer will power.
Super Bowl XLV – Alejandra’s Return to Health
Steel Curtain Rising missed Super Bowl XLV because it wasn’t shown in Porto Galinhas, Brazil. But by game time that was a secondary consideration. You can read the full story of the tremendous generosity of the staff at the Tabapitanga here, but in a nutshell, my wife suffered a herniated disc, experienced intense pain, and could barely walk. The trip back to Buenos Aires was a harrowing affair, and was followed by three trips to the ER and two hospitalizations.
Fortunately, Alejandra made a complete recovery – or at least as close to a complete recovery as one can make from back injuries, and is doing extremely well.
I even forgot to record the game, and never saw Super Bowl XLV. Some things are not meant to be.
Sure, the Steelers loss disappointed, but my wife’s injury and recovery serves as a reminder that the outcome of a football game pales in comparison to what is really important in life, which is why it makes this list of the greatest Steelers Super Bowl plays.
The initial reaction was that seeing Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount and Chuck Noll honored was nice, but it begged the question: “What about Steelers from Pittsburgh’s second Super Bowl era?”
Less = More for Steelers on Super Bowl 50 Golden Team
After all, Ben Roethlisberger would be too much to hope for, but Troy Polamalu, Alan Faneca and perhaps James Harrison would have strong cases for their inclusion in any all-time Super Bowl team. For Steelers fans to “Go there” would be incredibly greedy for one simple reason:
The NFL Hall of Fame selection committee didn’t make “any” all time Super Bowl team, it assembled one definitive Super Bowl 50 Golden Team.
Let’s tip our caps to the NFL Hall of Fame selection committee for what they achieved in constructing the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team – this is a bare bones team that limits itself to the best of the Super Bowl’s best. This cuts against the grain. These “All Time teams” such as the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team generally cast as wide a net possible both to spur fan interest and to drive Google clicks.
The Super Bowl 50 Golden Team moves in the opposite direction
The Super Bowl 50 Golden Team roster consists of one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, two offensive tackles, two guards, one center, two interior defensive linemen, two defensive ends, two inside linebackers, two outside linebackers, two cornerbacks, two safeties, one kicker, one punter, and one return specialist. One head coach has also been chosen.
The only concession to the change of the game is including 4 down lineman and 4 linebackers. Other than this, the Hall of Fame selection committee in Canton plays this one strictly by the book. Here’s a complete look at the depth chart of the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team.
Super Bowl 50 Golden Team Depth Chart: Offense
Quarterback: Joe Montana; San Francisco 49ers (1)
Halfback: Emmitt Smith; Dallas Cowboys (1)
Fullback: Franco Harris; Pittsburgh Steelers (1)
Tight End: Jay Novacek; Dallas Cowboys (2)
Offensive Tackle: Larry Allen; Dallas Cowboys (4)
Guard: Forrest Gregg; Green Bay Packers (1)
Center: Mike Webster: Pittsburgh Steelers (2)
Guard: Art Shell; Oakland Raiders (1)
Offensive Tackle: Gene Upshaw; Oakland Raiders (2)
Wide Receiver: Jerry Rice; San Francisco 49ers (2)
Wide Receiver: Lynn Swann; Pittsburgh Steelers (3)
Super Bowl 50 Golden Team Depth Chart: Defense
Defensive End: Reggie White; Green Bay Packers (2)
Defensive Tackle: Mean Joe Greene; Pittsburgh Steelers (4)
Defensive Tackle: Randy White; Dallas Cowboys (5)
Defensive End: Charles Haley; San Francisco 49ers (3), Dallas Cowboys (6)
Outside Linebacker: Lawrence Taylor; New York Giants (1)
Inside Linebacker: Jack Lambert; Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
Inside Linebacker: Ray Lewis; Baltimore Ravens (1)
Outside Linebacker: Jack Ham; Pittsburgh Steelers (6)
Cornerback: Deion Sanders; San Francisco 49ers (4), Dallas Cowboys (7)
Cornerback: Mel Blount; Pittsburgh Steelers (7)
Strong Safety: Ronnie Lott; San Francisco 49ers (5)
Free Safety: Jake Scott; Miami Dolphins (1)
Super Bowl 50 Golden Team Depth Chart: Specialist and Head Coach
Place Kicker: Adam Vinatieri; New England Patriots (1), Indianapolis Colts (1)
Punter: Ray Guy; Oakland Raiders (3)
Kick Returner: Desmond Howard; Green Bay Packers (3)
Head Coach of the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team: Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh Steelers (8)
Super Bowl 50 Golden Team Reveals Special Super Steelers Were
Some Steelers fans have groused about the absence of Terry Bradshaw and John Stallworth, the only two Hall of Famers from the Super Steelers not on the roster. To that, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had the perfect response:
Yes, like Montana, Terry Bradshaw is the only other 4-0 Super Bowl quarterback, and he and John Stallworth authored one of the greatest plays Super Bowl history with Super Bowl XIV’s “60-Prevent-Slot-Hook-And-Go,” but their absence is what make the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team so special – it focuses on the best of the best.
In the process, it is also reveals just how special the Super Steelers were.
Lynn Swann had to beat out Michael Irvin to earn his spot. The committee chose Franco Harris over Walter Payton. Jack Lambert got the nod over Ray Nitschke. Mel Blount made it in over Darrelle Revis and Rod Woodson. Joe Greene never won a Super Bowl MVP award but passed over Richard Dent who did.
And of course Chuck Noll beat out media darlings like Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick
In looking at the depth charts above, one can also not help but notice that the Super Steelers stand alongside several of the men they beat to either get to win those Super Bowls. Super Bowl 50 Golden Team marks a truly elite team of Super Bowl greats, and it confirms that, with 8 members of the team, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the ‘70’s were truly the greatest of all time.
The US Congress has declared September 7th as “Chuck Noll Day” in honor of the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers championship coach, who was taken from us in June of this year.
Chuck Noll at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe at Steelers training camp. Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
As part of the celebration, Steel Curtain Rising has prepared 23 facts about Chuck Noll and the Pittsburgh Steelers squads he led.
1 Noll had 1 son, Chris Henry Noll 2 The unlikely duo of Chuck Noll and Mark Malone paired for two victories over Bill Walsh and Joe Montana 3 NFL teams employed Noll’s service as a coach – the AFL’s Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers, the Baltimore Colts, and Pittsburgh Steelers 4 Super Bowls in 6 years, a record no one else has ever matched 5 Noll ranks 5th among all coaches in total playoff victories 6 Versus Tom Landry, Noll had six victories, including Super Bowl X and Super Bowl XIII 7 Noll ranks 7th among all coaches in total victories at 209, including both playoff and regular season 8 Noll notched 8 over time victories; his overall record in overtime was 8-3-1 9 AFC Central Division Championships 10 Noll is one of only ten coaches to win at least 3 Super Bowls and/or NFL Championships 11 Hall of Famers drafted by the Emperor- Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, Rod Woodson, and Dermontti Dawson. 12 Playoff Appearances
13 Quarterbacks started for Chuck Noll – Dick Shiner, Bradshaw, Terry Hanratty, Joe Gilliam, Mike Kruczek, Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, David Woodley, Scott Campbell, Bubby Brister, Steve Bono, Todd Blackledge, and Neil O’Donnell 14 Regular season games were won by Noll’s 1978 Super Bowl Championship team, a team record that stood until Ben Roethlisberger’s arrival in 2004 15 Winning seasons under Noll 16 Playoff victories 17 points were scored by Noll’s Steelers as he closed his career with two final two victories vs. Wyche’s Bengals and Bill Belichick’s Browns 18 points were scored by Noll’s defenses and special teams via safeties – that’s not a stat you see every day! 19 The jersey number “19” was only issued once during Noll tenure, when David Woodley wore it. 20 Noll’s 20th win came in November of 1972, vs. Bud Grant’s Minnesota Vikings, the same team he would defeat in Super Bowl IX 21 Different people held the title “head coach” for the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Houston Oilers during Noll’s tenure in Pittsburgh (interim head coaches excluded.) 22 Different schools supplied Noll with his first round draft picks, Baylor was the lone repeat alma mater for Greg Hawthorne and Walter Abercrombie 23 Years coaching the Steelers; 23 years in retirement until his passing.
If you expand the list to the playoff games, Troy Polamalu’s pick six in the 2008 AFC Championship Game must be included, not only for how it incredible it was, not because it came at a crucial moment in the game, but because it slammed the door shut on another AFC Championship home loss.
A similar, sentimental nod, can be given to Randy Fulller’s pass defense at the end of the 1995 AFC Championship game.
All of these are worthy candidates. Each involved players putting them into position to harness their talents in exactly the moments their team needed them to.
But in the final analysis, the Steelers second greatest play must go to James Harrison.
Harrison gets his pick six brought the total package –
It was an unscripted play born out of tireless preparation
It involved tremendous athleticism
It came at a critical time
Thanks to end game drama on the part of Larry Fitzgerald, Big Ben and ‘Tone, the impact of Harrion’s interception is largely forgotten. It shouldn’t. Arizona was about to score. Sliverback’s pick prevented 3 if not 7 points from going on the board, and added 7 more amounting to a 10 or 14 point swing in a game decided by 4.
Franco Harris’ place in Steelers lore will forever be safe – men who hustle on every play enjoy such privileges – but James Harrison will be equally difficult to dislodge from his perch at number two.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Chuck Noll has passed away at the age of 82 in his home in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ed Bouchette, Chuck Noll has suffered from poor health for a number of years, battling Alzheimer’s, a heart condition, and severe back pain.
Chuck Noll was known as “The Emperor.” While he may not have negotiated contracts or dabbled in the business side of the sport the way coach/GM’s such as Bill Parcells did, Noll had total control over the football operation, from coaching decisions, draft picks, to final roster choices.
Noll’s record speaks for itself.
When Noll arrived in Pittsburgh, the Steelers had appeared in post-season only once, and they had never won a game. By the time he retired in 1991, the Steelers and won 209 games, 16 post-season contests, 9 AFC Central Division Championships, and were the first NFL team to win 3 and then 4 Super Bowls.
23 years later, Chuck Noll is still the only NFL head coach to have won four Super Bowls.
As a coach, Noll never fathered a cadre of assistants as Paul Brown did, nor is he credited with establishing any innovations such as Tom Landry’s “Flex Defense” or Bill Walsh’s “West Coast offense.” Unlike Vince Lombardi, he left no legacy for his fire and brimstone motivational tactics.
No, Noll wasn’t about that because he was a fundamentalist through and through.
Noll wasn’t interested in flashy performers or super stars, although he coached plenty of the later, he wanted good athletes to execute their role in a system, and to do it predictably. And Noll did innovate – the famous “Tampa Cover 2” defense that Tony Dungy popularized was the same defense the Steelers developed and used under Noll, Bud Carson and George Perles.
Noll was also a master talent evaluator, arguably the best of all time.
But if Chuck Noll struck gold with these high profile players, he was also the champion of the little guy.
Noll saw himself as a teacher, first and foremost. During his time as coach, the Steelers practice without numbers – this was because Noll wanted all of his players to be treated equally – if an All Pro ran a bad route, he didn’t want anyone to hesitate to correct him. Under Noll, late round picks and undrafted rookie free agents got a fair shake and an honest shot at the time, as players like careers of L.C. Greenwood and Donnie Shell
Upon his retirement from the Steelers in 1991, Chuck Noll maintained the title of Administration Adviser, but in truth he served in no official capacity with the Steelers. Noll had pointedly stayed out of the limelight as head coach, and thought that all of the credit that Bill Cowher enjoyed following his tenure, should belong to him.
Noll could occasionally be seen in the press box during the occasional game at Three Rivers Stadium, but split his time between Pittsburgh and Florida, but was seldom seen and even more rarely heard.
Chuck Noll is survived by his wife Marianne and his son Chris.
Steelers Nation has lost its greatest champion and the City of Pittsburgh the man who made it the City of Champions. He will be missed. Steel Curtain Rising asks you join us in offering your thoughts and prayers to Noll’s family.
Note: Steel Curtain Rising will have a more complete obituary on Chuck Noll over the weekend. Please check back soon.
“Analysis shows that pass defenses on teams with a favorable gross/net punting ratio enjoy a statistically significant “passing yards per attempt allowed” advantage.
Maybe Pro Football Focus has no such stat. Even if they do, it says here that the Steelers have won more Super Bowls than anyone else, and it further says that in that respect, good punting doesn’t count for squat. Read on:
Does good punting = grim harbinger for the Steelers? Hum…
Number don’t lie fellow citizen of Steelers Nation. Let’s take a closer look for those who remain unconvinced.
Bobby Walden handled the punting duties for the Steelers in Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X. The Steelers ranked just above the middle of the pack and in fact were right about average in terms of punting.
Very little was average about those 1974 and 1975 teams laden with NFL Hall of Famers.
Craig Colquitt took over the chores for Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV and the Steelers punting performance perked up just a tad. Now Pittsburgh’s defense was in decline by that point, and perhaps better punting put them over the edge.
The Steelers 6-10 ’86 season stands as an aberration. Harry Newsome had arrived, but the Steelers still ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in terms of punting. Newsome picked his performance by 1988, and the Steelers led the NFL in punting.
They also had their worst post-1971 finish.
Legend has it the Bubby Brister scrawled “Playoffs 1989” on the chalk board to open training camp that summer, but it’s doubtful that Pittsburgh’s punting advantage in Newsome inspired him to do so.
In 1995 Rohn Stark filled the gap between Mark Royals and Josh Miller and the Steelers were the third worst punting team in the league. Nonetheless, the Steelers came heart breakingly close to “One for the Thumb” vs. Dallas in Super Bowl XXX.
Now, was that due more to Stark’s punting or Neil O’Donnell’s two picks? Again, you decide.
Josh Miller was a fine punter, and during the “My buddy’s the cop” phase of Kordell Stewart’s starting tenure he became somewhat of a cult hero and Baltimore’s legendary Purple Goose Saloon and yours truly was one of his prime promoters. Yet in 2003, Miller had the Steelers punting ranked above average, but they still had a 6-10 record.
The Steelers replaced Miller with Chris Gardocki, who punted on in Super Bowl XL, but One for the Thumb Came in spite of a 22nd ranking punting game.
And of course the Steelers attained further glory in Super Bowl XLIII despite the having the second worst punting game thanks to Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster.
Rounding it out you have 2010 and the loss to Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV, a season in which the Steelers broached the top 25% in punting. Could getting on the other side of that 25% mark have negated Ben Roethlisberger’sinterceptions, Mike Wallace’s ghosting, or Mendy’s fumble? Count me a skeptic.
Prayer’s and Shout Outs
Of course this analysis only looks at punting average, and not inside 20 numbers or anything like that. And of course crappy punting can hurt you, just remember the Oakland game. But let’s repeat it:
Number don’t lie
In the “Post Immaculate Reception Era” there is no correlation between good punting and winning Super Bowls. In fact, if anything the data suggests something quite the opposite.
So whether Brad Wing or Adam Podlesh wins out, perhaps its best to pray for Pittsburgh’s punter to stink.
*Full disclosure. I also write for BTSC. And by complete happenstance (on my honor as a Life scout), it I saw that their Tony Defeo, a good friend and soul mate, had the same idea and beat me to the punch. Check his out here.
And now in 2013 LC Greenwood found untimely death.
Art Rooney Jr. Finds the Man with the Yellow Shoes
Chuck Noll employed many means in transforming the Pittsburgh Steelers from doormat to dominance. But one often overlooked aspect is his total colorblindness when it came to selecting players.
Noll didn’t care if you were black, white, yellow, or purple, he only cared if you could play.
With Noll’s attitude and Bill Nunn’s connections in the HBC network the Steelers uncovered gem after gem in the drafts of early 70’s while many other teams handicapped themselves with color quotas.
Art Rooney Jr., head of the Steelers scouting department, fully embraced this philosophy, having fought Noll’s predecessors who refused to pick African American players simply because they had already taken two of “them.”
And so it was that Art Rooney Jr. found himself on the campus of Arkansas A&M in late 1968. He was down there to check out some halfback whose name history has forgotten. He was also interested in looking at a defensive end named Clarence Washington.
But while he was watching tape of Washington, some other kid caught his attention. The kid was 6’6”. Rooney had noted that the kid was too tall for his position. Defensive ends that tall aren’t supposed to have leverage.
But this kid had leverage, and nothing stopped him in getting to the quarterback.
The Kid’s name was LC Greenwood, and he became the second most recognizable name on famed Steel Curtain Defense.
Unlike Greene, Greenwood didn’t start immediately, but when he did break the Steelers starting lineup in 1971 he made noise, quickly. Greenwood:
When Greenwood was cut by the Steelers in 1982 he had 73.5 sacks, then a franchise high and still the number two mark.
Steelers Digest described Greenwood as “Cool. Confident. Smooth.”
Shortly before the 1974 AFC Championship game, Greenwood sat in the hallway outside the lock room in the Oakland Coliseum watching the Vikings and the Rams duke it out for the NFL crown. Gene Upshaw walked by and asked, “Whatta watchin LC?”
Greenwood deadpanned: “Just watching to see who we’re going to play in the Super Bowl.”
Greenwood was also a leader both on and off the field, and one of the first Super Steelers to find commercial success. His Miller Light commercials were legendary.
But like so many of the Super Steelers, Greenwood’s off the field success was not simply a bi-product of his on the field fame. Chuck Noll wanted self-starters and hard workers on his team, and those traits carried the Super Steelers to success off it.
Greenwood was no exception, founding Greenwood Enterprises, which operated out of West Main Street in Carnegie and worked in engineering, coal, natural gas and highway operations. After that he led Greenwood-McDonald Supply Co., Inc., which supplied of electrical equipment to retail outlets and manufacturers.
The Steel Curtain a Band of Brothers
The quartet of Greene, Greenwood, White and Holmes started out as teammates. They grew to be friends and ultimately brothers, sticking close together long after their playing days ended.
Dwight White’s wife recalled Joe Greene being so upset he could not even speak when he learned of “Mad Dog’s” death. And the first two people at White’s funeral were Greene and Greenwood.
White of course had gone into the hospital for back surgery, and ended up dying of a lung clot. As reported by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, the normally upbeat Greenwood told Joe Greene he was apprehensive about his own back surgery due to what had happened to White.
But Greenwood, hobbled by a back injury, in pain and walking around on a walker and needed the surgery. Midway through the Steelers embarssing 0-4 loss in London to the Vikings, Greene got a call from Mel Blount informing him that Greenwood had died of kidney failure.
Now only Joe Greene remains, and the Steel Curtain permanently stands at quarter strength.
The poll immediately went back up, and was kept after the disappointment of Super Bowl XLV as sort of a rallying cry.
However, in the fall of 2012 Google Blogger’s polling function ran into problems, and votes began disappearing from polls. While Blogger fixed it, the patch did not seem to apply to older polls, as this one had close to 1000 votes on it in October, and it closed at 800 and change.
So its time has come.
James Harrison’s 99 Yard TD Tops List
And what was the favorite Super Bowl moment of the Steel Curtain Rising faithful? See for yourself:
“Best” in the National Football League is defined by Super Bowl Championships. But how do you decide who is “the best of the best” when comparing championship teams from different eras? It’s an irresistible, unending, and most often unanswerable question because it’s rare when two truly great teams clash in a single era.
The glory earned by Bill Walsh’s 49ers was real, but in none of those Super Bowls did San Francisco defeat another team that also laid claim to the term “Dynasty.”
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys of the ‘70´s established dynasties, and they did play each other in the Super Bowl. Twice. And that’s what makes their rivalry so special.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys have played 30 times and the series stands at a 15-15 stalemate. The links below take you back games that I have memories of starting with the Super Bowls.
First a little poetic license. I’m too young to remember Super Bowl X, but omitting this NFL classic would be a sin. Chad Millman and Sean Coyne chronicle this series in their 2010 book The Ones Who Hit the Hardest, arguing that the tensions between the two teams mirrored the 1970’s Sun Belt-Frost Belt social shift. While that’s interesting, this Super Bowl magnum’s true richness is in the Hall of Fame Talent found on both sides of the ball.
Although the Steel Curtain defense was at its prime, it couldn’t stop Roger Staubach from striking quickly to Drew Pearson for a 29 yard touchdown pass. Pittsburgh rallied quickly, thanks in part of the first of several acrobatic “Lynn Swann” catches. Dallas struck back by with three more, and the two teams stood at a stalemate until Cliff Harris’ ill-advised taunting of Roy Gerela after a missed kick. Jack Lambert would not stand for it, and tossed Harris to the turf.
Although Lambert pleaded with the official not to get ejected, his boldness inspired the Steelers. In short order, Reggie Harrison blocked a punt for a safety, and Roy Gerela kicked two field goals to put Pittsburgh ahead by 3, which they clung to until late in the 4th.
On third and 6 with 3:06 to play Dallas KOed Terry Bradshaw with a helmet-to-helmet hit on all out safety blitz, but not before he lofted a 64 yard pass to Lynn Swann, who put the Steelers up 21-10.
Pittsburgh had the lead, but Bradshaw was out and 3 minutes was a lot of time to give Roger Staubach…
What separates a great player in his era from an all time great?
For one, the all time greats elevate those around them. Roger Staubach only need 1:14 to put Dallas back in the game, and he did it with a 34 yard bullet to Percy Howard for a touchdown, making that the first and only pass reception of Howard’s NFL career.
Without Bradshaw, the Steelers failed to kill the clock.
Chuck Noll refused to punt, giving Roger Staubach ample time to go 61 yards.
But Noll had the best defense in NFL history at his disposal. He trusted them. And they delivered and they delivered as Mike Wagner tipped Staubach’s final pass into the arms of Glen Edwards.
This was the first Super Bowl rematch and arguably the best Super Bowl ever, with 7 touchdowns, a 22 yard touchdown run, and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
While still strong, the Steel Curtain had begun its decline. But Chuck Noll and Tom Moore compensated by unleashing Lynn Swann and John Stallworth with the help of Terry Bradshaw´s cannon.
The day’s defensive accolades belonged to the Dallas “Doomsday Defense” led by Randy White, Harvey Martin, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and the coke sniffing Hollywood Henderson. This was the year that Tom Landry unveiled the famous “flex defense” that befuddled the league.
Who would triumph? The Irresistible force or the Immovable object?
Super Bowl XIII was Terry Bradshaw’s finest game.
Lynn Swann and John Stallworth caught touchdown passes of 18 yards, 28 yards, and 75 yards, respectively
Although he threw just 30 times, he had 318 yards passing
Rocky Bleier closed the first half with another touchdown catch, making a play that a former Vietnam vet who was never supposed to walk again had no right to.
The game featured Hall of Fame caliber plays from both teams. Tony Dorsett gouged Pittsburgh’s defense for 96 yards on just 15 carries – an astonishing 6.4 yard average. Roger Staubach himself had a 3 touchdown game, including two in the game’s final 2 and a half minutes.
Looking back at Dorsett’s rushing dominance one might ask, why were Staubach’s heroics even necessary? Why didn’t Dallas run more?
The answer lies in Dallas’ inability to take advantage of opportunities, and in that age old flaw – cockiness.
With Dallas trailing 21 to 14 in the third quarter, Staubach hit Jackie Smith perfectly alone in the end zone – Smith dropped the ball
Midway through the 4th, Randy White recovered a muffed kickoff, only to fumble and then watch Dennis Wilson emerge with the ball from the ensuring scrum
One play later, Bradshaw hit Swann for an 18 yard touchdown strike
But it was the touchdown that set up the botched kickoff that provides the instructive tale.
Prior to Super Bowl XII, Hollywood Henderson had talked a lot of trash:
Insulting Randy Grossman
Calling Jack Lambert a “toothless chimpanzee”
charging that Bradshaw could not spell “cat” if you spotted him the “c” and the “t”
Midway through the fourth quarter Henderson slammed Bradshaw to the turf on a play whistled dead before the snap. Not content with an illegal it, Henderson took his time climbing off of Bradshaw, taunting him all the while.
Franco Harris, normally reserved to a fault, took exception to the taunts and got into Henderson’s face. According to Millman and Coyne, Henderson rebuffed him, “_uck you in your ass, and your mama, too.”
Harris’ response was simple. It was 3rd and 9 and Harris returned to the huddle and said “give me the ball.” Bradshaw complied, calling a special trap the Noll andMoore had designed to exploit a weakness in the Flex defense.
Harris ran straight through the hole, and went 22 yards later he found the end zone.
Staubach’s of course would lead two 4th quarter touchdown drives, leaving Dallas 22 seconds for an on-sides kick and a final shot at glory. But Rocky Bleier recovered the kick, sealing the Steelers 3rd Super Bowl victory.
Afterwards, a Cowboy’s radio commentator proclaimed “It was a triumph of blue collar over white collar.” Maybe that’s true. The grandson of a Mt. Oliver butcher who lived by the sweat of his brow certainly likes that ending to the story.
But truth is something perhaps grander yet.
It was a historical rarity that pitted two dynasties clashing in the game’s greatest show, with Pittsburgh coming out on top.
Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr. passed away on August 28th, 1988. The Chief’s death marked a transition for the team. Gone was Mark Malone, drafted in 1980 to replace Terry Bradshaw. Gone too were John Stallworth and Mike Webster, leaving Dwayne Woodruff as the final link to the Super Steelers.
As fate would have it, Rooney’s team would confront their historic rivals 7 days after his death, making it the final time that Chuck Noll and Tom Landry’s final contest. The game marked Bubby Brister’s first non-injury start and Michael Irvin’s NFL debut. It also began a sort of last hurrah for 1980´s Steelers stables such as Ernest Jackson who would soon find himself benched in favor of an unheralded second year player named Merril Hoge.
The Steelers won 24 to 21, allowing Noll to open with a victory over Landry in a season that would see him close it with a victory over Shula – and get precious little in between.
The 1989 Steelersrekindled the passions and imaginations of an aspiring Steelers Nation. They also left the 1990 Steelers with the 17th pick, and Emmitt Smith was still on the board when their time came.
…Dallas of pounced on Emmitt Smith, and Number 22 would make Pittsburgh pay for that error several times, beginning on Thanksgiving Day 1991.
Dallas scored the first 10 points on the heels of an Emmitt Smith touchdown and Ken Willis field goal. Floundering under Joe Walton´s offense, Pittsburgh got its first score in the third quarter thanks to Gary Anderson.
The Cowboys matched with 3 of their own, but with a late 4th quarter Warren Williams touchdown the Steelers threatened to make a game of it. Dallas responded, when Steve Beuerlein hit Michal Irvin across the middle. Gary Jones missed the tackle and even Rod Woodsoncould not chase him down as Irvin iced the game with a 66 yard touchdown.
Emmitt Smith had 109 yards on the day, more than the entire Steelers rushing offense….
Jimmy Johnson brought the Lombardi back to Dallas in 1992, the year an rookie head coach ignighted the passions of Steelers Nation with the phenomenon known as “Cowher Power.” Dallas repeated as champions in 1993 and, although the 1993 Steelers just snuck into the playoffs, they entered 1994 as the class of the AFC.
The stage was set Pittsburgh vs. Dallas at Three Rivers Stadium for FOX´s first NFL broadcast – the Steelers were to have their official coming out party as a legit contender….
…And the Steelers fell flat on their faces.
The Steelers did nothing right. Barry Fosterwas held to 44 yards rushing, and one of the game’s enduring images was Bill Cowher imploring Neil O’Donnell on the side lines “Throw the Ball Neil! You’re a quarterback, throw the ball!”
The Cowboys sacked Neil O’Donnell 9 times, including 4 by Charles Haley alone
Emmitt Smith decimated the Steelers for 171 yards
Michael Irvin had 8 catches for 139 yards
Overconfidence was the Achilles heal of Bill Cowher’s early teams. Every time they had a showcase game they failed miserably. And so it was on opening day 1994 vs. Dallas and so it remained later in January when the San Diego Chargers upset the Steelers in the AFC Championship game.
As mentioned above, Chuck Noll opened and closed 1988 with wins over Landry´s Cowboys and Shula’s Dolphins with only 3 victories in between. That 5-11 was a low point for Noll, but it disqualified Pittsburgh from the Aikman Derby, an “honor” which fell to Dallas.
Had the 1988 Steelers finished 2-14 Noll almost certainly would have drafted Aikman and probably also would have picked Emmitt Smith in 1990. Could that alternate scenario have led to a Super Bowl XXX pitting a Steelers team led by Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith vs. a Dallas Cowboys squad led by Steve Walsh and Barry Sanders?
We’ll never know. Dallas got Troy Aikman, leaving Pittsburgh to draft Neil O’Donnell in 1990. And those two picks would make all the difference in the big dance.
Dallas started fast, scoring the game’s first 13 points, as stage fright slowed the Steelers. But the Black and Gold got back into things when Yancy Thigpen caught a touchdown pass despite Slime Time Dieon Sanders’ blatant pass interference.
The Dallas Cowboys deserve full credit for winning this game, but Pittsburgh wounds were self inflicted. Early in the third quarter Neil O’Donnell threw a pass directly to Larry Brown who returned it deep into the Red Zone, where Emmitt Smith easily converted.
Undaunted, the Steelers got back on the board with a 46 yard Norm Johnson field goal, and then Bill Cowher made one of the gustiest calls in Super Bowl history with a surprise on-sides that Deon Figures recovered. The Steelers marched down the field and Bam Morris brought them to within 3, as the score stood 20-17 Dallas.
The Steelers defense held, but that did not stop Neil O’Donnell from striking again, as he once age threw directly to Larry Brown, who again returned it to the Red Zone. O’Donnell apologists argue that Andre Hastings ran the wrong route, but it’s the quarterback’s job to deliver a ball, and there was nary a black jersey in sight on Brown´s second interception.
Emmitt Smith put the Dallas Cowboys ahead for good a few plays later, sealing Super Bowl XXX for Dallas.
For the record, Troy Aikman was flawless in the game, going 15-23 with one touchdown and no picks.
The game evened Dallas’s Super Bowl record with the Steelers to 1-2, and pulled the Cowboys ahead in the Lombardi count by 1.
Troy Aikman torched the Steelers secondary for 4 touchdown passes
Yes, the Steelers effectively shut down Emmitt Smith, but that didn´t matter, as Dallas jumped to a 37-0 lead and held it until Mark Bruner hauled in a face-saving 4th quarter touchdown.
This game was neither the first nor the last of Bill Cowher’s infamous opening day blow outs. And true to form the Steelers rebounded landing in the AFC Championship later that year, while Dallas imploded losing their last 5 en route to a 6-10 finish as Barry Switzer lost control of the team.
But that future seemed very distant for both teams during that 37-7 drubbing one hot Sunday in August at Three Rivers Stadium.
The Dave Campo in Dallas ended with the faithful at Texas Stadium demanding that Jerry Jones bring Bill Parcells to Irving. Bring him he did. Tuna brought Vinny Testaverde with him….
…Vinny Testaverde got and still gets better press than any other overrated under achieving quarterback in the history of the NFL. But Parcells coaxed the best out of Vinny. Yet not even Big Tuna could will success out of Testaverde against his old AFC Central Nemesis….
…and for a while it looked like Vinny might just deny him it.
The Cowboys quickly jumped ahead on a Richie Anderson touchdown, but Ben Roethlisberger struck back with touchdown to Plaxico Burress, followed by a 51 yard field goal from Jeff Reed.
But Dallas tied it at the half, added another three to start the third quarter, and as the third quarter was ending the Cowboys appeared to pull away when Testaverde connected with Meshawn “Will You Just GIVE ME the DAMM BALL” Johnson for a 22 yard touchdown.
The Steelers tied it late in the fourth quarter with a touchdown, but Testaderde began masterfully killing the clock.
At third and 13 with 2:36 remaining Dallas only needed a first down to ice the game, but James Farriorknocked the ball lose and Kemo Von Oelhoffen recovered. Five plays later Jerome Bettis was in for the go ahead touchdown, dropping Testaverde´s record vs. the Steelers to 2-10.
Yet the Steelers entered the 4th quarter down 13 to 3. As Dallas held Willie Parker to 25 yards, Ben Roethlisberger and Heath Miller lost fumbles, and the Steelers converted a woeful 3 of 16 third downs.
Early in the 4th quarter the Steelers finally put together a long drive reaching the one, but despite trying on both third and fourth downs, Gary Russellcould not punch it in. The Dallas defense celebrated as if it had won the game.
Dallas offense lasted 6 plays and ‘Tone responded with a 35 yard punt return, giving the Steelers excellent field position, but the Steelers were forced to settle for 3. Again the Steelers defense responded with a three and out. Ben Roethlisberger hooked up 3 times with Nate Washington on the ensuring drive before throwing a 5 yard pass to Jeff Reed, trying the game with just over two minutes to play.
On its first play Dallas ran two yards up the middle.
Mike Tomlin called a time out. Tony Romo was audibly incredulous and visibly fluster by Tomlin’s take no prisoners move. You can watch the results for yourself, with a little music interlude, courtesy of “Renegade” (available as of 12-13-12):
The 2012 Steelers traveled to Jerry’s World reeling looking to regain footing after a shocking loss to the Chargers the week before. The Steelers might failed to play disciplined football, but the certainly lacked on flair for the dramatic in this one.
The Steelers opening drive featured 2 “should have been” interceptions on Ben Roethlisberger attempts to connect with Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, followed by an Emmanuel Sanders fumble that mercifully got ruled as an incompletion. Dallas jumped to a 10 point lead, but the Steelers fought back tying the game at the half.
The lead changed hands 3 times in the third quarter, but the Steelers opened a 24-17 advantage on a 7 yard Ben Roethlisberger-Antonio Brown hook up. Pittsburgh appeared to have Dallas on the ropes when its defense forced the Cowboys to punt next possession, and Antonio Brown appeared to be hammering the nail into their coffin as he returned the punt 22 yards, only to be stripped of the ball.
The Cowboys tied the score. The Steelers had two chances to mount a comeback, but three times in the next two possessions and once on consecutive downs. The Steelers won the toss in overtime, but a Roethlisberger interception was returned to the one, allowing Dallas to score.