Onward with Michael Uhlhorn's next entry in the (so-far) well received series titled '25 Memorable Games from 25 Steelers Legends'. With the Steelers still not back from their bye week, let's double-dip this week and file another addition to the list. The premise is to highlight individual games that Steeler Nation will always remember their career by. Not surprisingly, and just as Michael and I had hoped would happen, you all have offered some outstanding additions to the conversation. Our next addition to the list is a Hall of Famer with a long list of memorable games to choose from. - Michael B. -
19) John Stallworth - Wide Receiver (1974-1987)
John Stallworth was a fourth round selection in 1974 out of Alabama A&M, and was one of four Hall of Famers selected in the 1974 draft. Many consider the Steelers' '74 draft class to be the greatest ever, and Stallworth has the best stats in the class. Some people here will want Stallworth to be higher on this list, and many will say he should be above Lynn Swann (and maybe he should) but I have always had a soft spot for Swann and think he contributed more in bigger games. There is no doubting though, that until Hines Ward shattered every receiving record the Steelers had, John Stallworth was, at least statistically, the greatest WR in franchise history.
John Stallworth won 4 Super Bowls; made the Pro Bowl 4 times; was selected to two All-Pro teams; and is 2nd on the Steelers All-Time in receiving yards, touchdowns, receptions, games played by a wide receiver, and 8th in points-scored among all players.
Career Game: 1978 Divisional Round vs. Denver Broncos (12/30/1978)
Statistics: 10 receptions for 156 yards (15.6 avg.) and 1 touchdown.
By the time the 1978 playoffs came around, Pittsburgh had already seen two championships brought home, and no team had won more than two Super Bowls in NFL history. As we all know, that would soon change.
The path to the Steelers' third championship started December 30, 1978 at Three Rivers Stadium. The Denver Broncos were trying to take on the mighty Steelers, and even though they were heavy underdogs, the Broncos kept the game close for three quarters, until John Stallworth caught a spectacular 45-yard touchdown. Ironically for the purposes of this post, John Stallworth's greatest game happened on a day when he wasn't even his team's best player. Franco Harris rushed for two early touchdowns to build the lead, and finished with over 100 yards on the ground. Harris was the MVP of the game for the Steelers, but Stallworth stretched the field enough to allow the open running lanes for Harris.
When the offense had the ball, it seemed as though either Harris was shredding would-be tacklers, or Stallworth was making big gains into the secondary. Even though Harris and Stallworth had big days, the Broncos were able to keep the game close by chipping away with a touchdown and field-goal. I'll let the writers from Steelers.com tell you what happened next:
"To set the scene: Leading 19-10 in the fourth quarter of the game, the Steelers were faced with a second-and-eight at the Broncos 45-yard line. The Steelers had been in command throughout much of the game but the Broncos remained within reach. Stallworth's catch, though, clinched the game. Stallworth leaped over Broncos All-Pro cornerback Steve Foley and caught a Bradshaw pass as he tumbled over the end line, one of many acrobatic catches Stallworth made during his illustrious career."*
* Taken from a great snippet from Steelers.com:
Later in the fourth quarter, Lynn Swann added another touchdown to his impressive playoff resume, and the Steelers turned a close game into a laugher. But as Steelers.com noted, the 9th greatest play in Three Rivers' history belonged to John Stallworth, and the greatest game of his career would feature arguably the greatest catch of his career.
Though many of us younger readers will remember another Steelers vs. Broncos game with fonder memories (2005 AFCCG), I am jealous of anyone who was alive to watch one of the greatest teams of all-time on the path to the most championships in league history.
Video: An episode of the series, "America's Game," about the 1978 Steelers from Hulu (narrated by Bruce Willis: awesome). The Broncos' game starts at 30:30. At 31:40, you will see Stallworth's catch and just before that an absurd catch from Lynn Swann.