Game day. Super Bowl XIII. Its third down and goal with 30 seconds to go in the in the half. Bradshaw takes the snap, rolls out and is immediately under pressure from a fierce Dallas Doomsday charge led by Ed Jones and Randy White. At the last possible instant before contact Bradshaw throws the ball away in the corner of the end zone. Out of the night sky, little stocky Rocky Bleier, in a pose for the cover of SI, leaps as high as an 8 toed man possibly can and grabs Bradshaw’s bullet. Touchdown Steelers, taking a 21-14 lead into halftime Super Bowl XIII. In between Hollywood’s taunting, Hegman’s stealing and Bradshaw breaking the Super Bowl passing record in the first half, Super Bowl XIII was shaping up to be a game for the ages.
Fast forward in the hard hitting affair. Both defenses have tightened. Players are limping off, getting treatment and returning in one of the hardest hitting games of a hard hitting era. Stallworth and his 115 yards and 2 TD’s is out. Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Gerry Mullins, Jack Lambert all take turns with the trainers. There is 2:39 to go in the 3rd quarter when Staubach is faced with 3rd down inside the Steelers 12 yard line. The shifting Cowboys go in motion, the ball is snapped and the Steelers are confused. In the Miami evening a wide open Jackie Smith drops Staubach’s perfect pass. Dallas kicks a field goal to close Pittsburgh’s lead to 21-17. A couple nice passes to Theo Bell (filling in for Stallworth) and Lynn Swann allow the Steelers to reach mid field but a sack of Bradshaw forces the punt as the third quarter ends.
The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers were perhaps the best Steelers team of the 70’s that won the Super Bowl. (See 1976 Steelers) As the fourth quarter rolled on the world champion Dallas Cowboys were driving on a tired Steelers defense again. In the light rain Dorsett rips off crucial first downs and Staubach scrambles to keep Dallas hopes for back to back titles and revenge from Super Bowl X alive. Greene, White, Greenwood and Furness are held at bay. Shell, Ron Johnson, Blount Lambert & Ham perform valiantly holding the potent Dallas offense at bay in a bend don’t break mentality. On 3rd and 5 Mean Joe Greene bats Staubach’s pass back to Texas and the Cowboys are forced to punt. The Cowboys pin the one time two time champion Steelers at their own 14 with half the fourth quarter and their legacy in front of them.
Dallas continues to snuff out the vaunted Steelers running game. On a third and 8 Bradshaw finds clutch Randy Grossman in front of Dallas “punk” Cliff Harris who promptly takes his shots at Grossman. The Steelers though have a crucial first down and some needed momentum. Bradshaw then finds Swann in front of Dallas “punk” Cliff Harris and completes to him as Harris hits Swann hard. Swann is on his way to 7 for 124 opposite Theo Bell and sans Stallworth in the second half. Next, in a play rerun ad nausea on ESPN Classic, Swann gets tangled with Bennie Barnes and draws a 30 yard PI penalty. The Dallas D argues then stiffens and forces the Steelers into a 3rd down. Taking too much time the whistle sounds as Bradshaw gets the snap from Webster. Hollywood Henderson barrels through apparently unaware of the whistle and throws Bradshaw to the ground. A usually calm but now incensed Franco Harris is in Henderson’s face that hasn’t stopped talking all week. With resolve Harris heads to the huddle and demands the ball. Jon Kolb hands Randy White everything but his lunch, Ray Pinney and a referee take care of Charlie Waters and a third and 9 draw play springs Harris for 22 yards and pay dirt. On the ensuing kickoff special teams’ ace and nickel back Tony Dungy drills Randy White who fumbles a Gerela squib kick. Dungy recovers and loses the ball which is retrieved in the pile by another special teams ace Dennis “Dirt” Winston. While special teams coach Noll congratulates his special team stars like Rick Moser and Ray Oldham on the sideline Bradshaw goes for the jugular. First play is a deep drop and Bradshaw bomb reminiscent of Bradshaw to Swann for 64 yards and a TD in Super Bowl X. This one is Bradshaw to Swann leaping in the night sky for 18 yards and a 35-17 lead with about 5 minutes left.
14 points in 11 seconds. Just like the Steelers did to the Oilers in the AFCCG. When it was time to throw the switch this team could do it. Staubach valiantly rallied the soon to be non champion Cowboys to two TD’s in the last 4 minutes. Recovering an onside kick had created some drama in a game that the Dallas offense had dominated in time of possession. With 30 seconds to go Rafael Septian attempted one last onside kick. Again it was the Steelers unheralded hero Rocky Bleier there for the Steelers to recover the kick. Two snaps from the victory formation followed. Then, in a scene before gator aid baths Chuck Noll was hoisted on the shoulders of his players’ winners of the Triple Crown. The 1978 Steelers had won their unprecedented third Lombardi trophy. Asked about his team in the locker room after the game Noll stated “This team hasn’t peaked yet.”