The Steelers had something planned for the country's bicentennial celebration.
In front of 80,000 fans at the Orange Bowl and 80 million fans worldwide, Pittsburgh's partook in the Super Bowl that finally broke the mold and captured the imagination of the world.
Playing in the year of our country's bicentennial celebration, the Steelers and Cowboys created enough fireworks to satisfy any Independence Day celebration. Donning commemorative patches celebrating the United States' 200th birthday, the Steelers and Cowboys efforts on that Miami afternoon was the best present the Super Bowl could receive as it was entering double-digits in age.
Following the Colts' dramatic overtime win over the Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, the pendulum was beginning to change from baseball being America's past time. Football's momentum continued throughout the 1960s, as the Green Bay Packers were pro football's first modern-day dynasty. Then, there was the inception of the Super Bowl and the Jets' shocking upset of the 19.5-point favorite Colts in Super Bowl III. But, following that historic day, the NFL still needed something extra to really become America's greatest sport. In short, it needed a great Super Bowl.
Super Bowls were beginning to take some flack entering the mid-70's. The average score of the first nine Super Bowl games was 22-8, reinforcing the criticisms that Super Bowls were often lopsided games as well as low-scoring affairs that seldom lived up to the hype. And even the close games weren't good. The Colts' 16-13 win over the Cowboys in Super Bowl V featured 11 turnovers, and the Dolphins' 14-7 win over the Redskins two years later wasn't as close as the score indicated, as the 'Skins only touchdown of the day was scored after Mike Bass picked off Garo Yepremian's pass in one of the most bizarre plays in Super Bowl history.
Quite simply, Super Bowl X changed it all. It was the first Super Bowl to feature two teams that had already won a Vince Lombardi Trophy, and throughout the game, both teams played like champions in a battle that featured big plays, dramatic moments and a Hail Mary desperation pass on the game's final play.
Above all, the game featured three remarkable catches by Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann. Swann's first catch, a 32-yarder that saw Swann leap into the air to snag Terry Bradshaw's pass while tight-roping the sideline. His 53-yard catch in the second quarter is still regarded as one of the greatest catches in football history, as Swann jumped over Mark Washington, tipped the ball in the air, and then corralled the ball as he was falling back to the turf.
Swann saved his best work for late in Super Bowl X. Trailing most of the day, Pittsburgh had scored three times in the fourth quarter to take a 15-10 lead late in the fourth quarter. Facing a third and four in his own territory, Bradshaw went for it all, humming a deep pass that Swann grabbed in stride for a 64-yard touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 21-10 lead.
The Cowboys stormed back, as Roger Staubach needled through the Steelers' defense for a touchdown pass to make Super Bowl X a four-point affair with under two minutes left. But that's as close as the game would get, as the Steel Curtain defense picked off Staubach's final end zone pass to preserve a 21-10 victory.
There have been other great Super Bowls, but this one between the Steelers and Cowboys was the first great Super Bowl game. The fact that it was played during our country's bicentennial year, at a time when the NFL really needed a great moment to catapult the game to an even higher level, makes Super Bowl X even more memorable.