By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
With the pinnacle game of the NFL season nearby, I am going back through the archives to discuss the top 10 Super Bowls of all time. The discussion starts with Super Bowl X between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had just come off a Super Bowl victory against the Minnesota Vikings and were looking to become the second straight team to win two Super Bowls in a row. Behind the “Steel Curtain” defense, with eight Pro Bowl selectees, including “Mean” Joe Greene, Jack Ham, and Mel Blount, the Steelers finished with a 12-2 record, including winning 11 in a row. The offense was nothing to shake a finger at, either, combining the strength of FB Franco Harris (1,246 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns), and the arm of QB Terry Bradshaw (2,055 passing yard, 18 touchdowns). WR Lynn Swann led the team with 781 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Despite losing the last game of the season, the Steelers were still the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Facing the AFC East winner Baltimore Colts, the relentless defense forced four turnovers, including a 93 yards fumble return by Andy Russell to lead the Steel City to a 28-10 victory. The conference championship started with defense, but ended with a flurry of scoring as Pittsburgh stopped the Oakland Raiders during their final drive, prevailing 16-10, and preserving a return to the Super Bowl.
The Dallas Cowboys were looking to get back to the big game since their win four years prior in Super Bowl VI. With QB Roger Staubach (2,666 passing yards, 17 touchdowns) at the helm and a “Flex” defense led by Ed “Too Tall Jones” and Mel Renfro, the Cowboys were able to bounce back from a 5-3 start. They ran off wins in five of their last six to finish 10-4 and clinch the only playoff spot in the NFC.
The Cowboys playoff run was almost over as quickly as it began. Down 14-10 with 24 seconds left in the game, Staubach found WR Drew Pearson for a 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to clinch the 17-14 victory. The victory over the No. 1 NFC Seed provided huge motivation leading into the Conference Championships where Dallas threw all over the Los Angeles Rams. Staubach threw for 220 yards and four touchdowns, three to RB Preston Pearson, and the Dallas defense shut down Los Angeles, holding them to 118 yards. With the win, Dallas became the first ever wild-card team to advance to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl X was played in the cozy confines of the Orange Bowl in Miami, FL. A fumbled punt snap gave Dallas the ball at Pittsburgh’s 29, and on the next play, Staubach found WR Drew Pearson for a touchdown pass, giving Dallas first blood and a 7-0 lead.
Pittsburgh responded, using four straight runs to lull Dallas’s defense, before Bradshaw hit Lynn Swann for a 32 yard gain. That play was big in itself, as Swann had been injured in the AFC Championship and was not expected to play. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh found itself on Dallas’ 16 yard line, advancing to the seven before using some trickeration.
With 3rd-and-1 on the seven, Pittsburgh lined up with two tight ends, signaling run. Instead, TE Randy Grossman faked an inside block and ran into the end zone where Bradshaw found him, tying the game up at 7-7.
Dallas came right back, kicking a 36-yard field goal seconds into the second quarter, giving them the 10-7 lead. Pittsburgh had a chance to tie, but a 36-yard field goal of their own was missed, giving Dallas the lead at halftime. A scoreless third quarter put Dallas 15 minutes away from Super Bowl glory.
In the fourth quarter, the defense that put Pittsburgh on the map came through, forcing Dallas to punt from their end zone. The punt was blocked, making the score 10-9. With great field position thanks to the free kick, Pittsburgh was able to put another three points on the board, taking their first lead of the game six minutes into the fourth quarter, 12-10.
On Dallas’ ensuing drive, DB Mike Wagner picked off Staubach, returning the ball to the Dallas seven yard line. The offense would stall but did manage three points, extending the lead to 15-10. All in all, the Pittsburgh defense and special teams combined to put eight points on the board in a mere five minutes, clearly putting the momentum in their favor.
Pittsburgh would get the ball back with enough time to run out the clock, but a third down situation forced a pass call. Instead of throwing short, Bradshaw hooked up with Swann on a deep post for a 64 yard touchdown. Bradshaw would subsequentially get knocked out of the game by a hit from Larry Cole, but Pittsburgh had taken a two score lead, 21-10.
Staubach, using his QB magic, marched Dallas 80 yards in five plays, culminanting in a 34-yard touchdown pass to WR Percy Howard, cutting the deficit to 21-17. After recovering the onside, Pittsburgh would turn the ball over to Dallas after four straight rushing plays.
This gave Dallas the ball on their 39 yard line with 82 seconds left in the game. After marching to the Pittsburgh 38, Staubach would get no further, throwing an interception into the end zone, sealing the victory for the Steelers.
WR Lynn Swann would be named MVP, with four catches for 161 yards, but it was the defense that once again proved its mettle for Pittsburgh, sacking Staubach seven times and picking him off three times. Their efforts at the beginning of the fourth quarter were key in giving Pittsburgh the lead and the win in the fourth quarter.
A game that goes down to the wire is a great Super Bowl, and that’s why Super Bowl X is the 10th-best Super Bowl of all time.