Super Bowl X: Lynn Swann
Simply stated, the second year receiver was the X-factor in that game by making three of the greatest catches anyone had ever seen, including the game-winner in Pittsburgh's 21-17 win over the Cowboys in the Orange Bowl as Pittsburgh became the third team to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
The irony is that Swann's most fascinating catch- the 53 yard one in which he tipped the ball to himself while stumbling over Mark Washington- didn't even lead to any Pittsburgh points. But his 32-yarder in the first quarter and his 61 yard catch with three minutes left helped produce 13 of Pittsburgh's 21 points. While Swann's efforts- four catches for a then-Super Bowl record 161 yards-earned him the game's MVP, several other plays made by a little known special teams player, a quick learning safety and an intimating young linebacker helped pave the way for Pittsburgh's triumph that NFL Films called the best of the Super Bowl's first ten games. Here's play numbers 8, 7, 6 given in chronological order from which the play took place.
8) Super Bowl X: Missed Pittsburgh field goal changed momentum of Super Bowl X in Steelers favor
Roy Gerela's ribs were hurting, Cliff Harris was mouthing off, and Jack Lambert had seen enough.
The first half of Super Bowl X was not kind to Gerela, the Steelers kicker. After Dallas ran a reverse on the opening kickoff, Gerela found himself as the last Steeler that could stop Thomas Henderson from recording the first kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl history. Gerela made the tackle, but paid for it by suffering badly bruised ribs that would affect his kicking for the remainder of the game.
With the score 10-7 Dallas, Gerela missed his second field goal of the day with 9:29 left in the third quarter. Cowboys defensive back Cliff Harris, who had begun his verbal tirade earlier in the week when he advised a concussed Swann to not play in the game, patted Gerela on the head and continued with his trash talk.
As Gerela tried to free himself from Harris, Jack Lambert came to his kicker's aid. The second year linebacker grabbed Harris and threw him to the ground. Immediately, Harris began to play the victim, and lobbied for the official to throw Lambert out. After convincing the official to let him remain in the game, Lambert, in NFL Films broadcaster John Facandae's words used the altercation to "psyche himself into an even higher level of rage. With Joe Greene injured, Lambert became the symbol of Steeler muscle, shifting and rooting through blockers until he found the ball-carrier, which Lambert found 14 times in Super Bowl X."
After having success against Pittsburgh's defense earlier in the game, Pittsburgh stonewalled Dallas' offense to the tune of four punts and an interception in its next five possessions. The Steelers scored 14 consecutive points during that span to take a 21-10 lead in their eventual 21-17 win. Along with Lambert's heroics, L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White collaborated for six of the Steelers' then-Super Bowl record seven sacks of Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach, with the former setting a Super Bowl record with four sacks that still stands.
After the game, Lambert was asked about his scuffle with Harris, saying "We're the Pittsburgh Steelers. We're supposed to be the intimidators." While already feared, Lambert's throw down and the Steelers performance following only added to Lambert's and the Steel Curtain's mystic as the greatest unit ever.
7) Super Bowl X: Harrison's block keys Steelers fourth quarter scoring spree
Seconds after making the biggest play of his football life, Reggie Harrison was afraid.
Harrison, a special teams player, was afraid of being yelled at by coach Chuck Noll.
After Pittsburgh's defense forced a three and out, the Cowboys sent out their punting team with a little over 13 minutes remaining and leading the Steelers trailing, 10-7. Looking to change the complexion of the game, Noll rushed 10 men at Cowboys punter Mitch Hoopes, who was standing in his end zone. Hoope's punt never stood a chance, as Harrison blocked it almost instantaneously following Hoope's kick. The ball went directly out of the end zone, inching the Steelers closer at 10-9.
Harrison's fear drew from thinking Noll would be mad at him for not cleaning catching the punt and scoring touchdown rather than the safety. Harrison would have nothing to fear, as his block triggered four consecutive scores by the Black and Gold.
Steelers rookie Nick Collier kept Pittsburgh's momentum rolling by running back the ensuing free kick 25 yards into Dallas territory. Pittsburgh's offense moved 25 yards before Gerela came through for his first field goal of the day while giving the Steelers their first lead of the afternoon. Gerela would kick another field goal just two minutes later following a Dallas turnover, with Swann closing out the Steelers scoring after another Dallas three and out.
In a match-up of two historic teams, a pair of special team guys made two plays that helped turn the game's tide, with Harrison's block triggering Pittsburgh's run that eventfully led to them becoming champions again.
6) Super Bowl X: After being fooled earlier, Wagner turns the tables on Staubach, Cowboys
"This is the play. I think they're going to run the play."
For most of Super Bowl X, Steelers safety Mike Wagner had been kicking himself over his part in the first first quarter touchdown permitted by Pittsburgh's defense during the 1975 season.
After a botched punt put Pittsburgh's defense in a hole, Staubach went for the kill on the ensuring play. His pass to Drew Pearson caught the Steelers by surprise, and it worked for a 29-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys the lead less than five minutes into the game. The play included a crossing route that befuddled the Steelers and led to Pearson being wide open in the heart of the secondary.
Just one play after Pittsburgh took their first lead at 12-10, Dallas tried the play again at their own 15-yard-line. But Wagner saw it coming. "This is the play. I think they're going to run the play," Wagner said upon seeing the Cowboys formation. Wagner was right, as he perfectly timed Staubach's pass and picked it off before Pearson could reach for the ball. The pick led to another Steelers field goal and a 15-10 lead and, following another three and out forced by Pittsburgh's defense, paved the way for Swann to bring in the game-winning touchdown.
"It was our bread and butter play all season long," Staubach said after the game. "It was the first time it didn't work."
Wagner also ensured that Staubach's Hail Mary to the end zone on the game's final play wouldn't work, either. Wagner deflected a pass in the end zone intended for Pearson that ended up in the hands of Glen Edwards.
On a team that was taught to be as intelligent as they were tough, Wagner's pick symbolized Noll's philosophy of winning the mental aspect of the football game as well as the physical one. Lambert, Harrison, and Wager helped the Steelers do just that, with the fruit of their labor resulting in another world championship.