John Stallworth and Lynn Swann may be the most complimentary wide receiver duo in the history of the NFL. Both were drafted in the same season and became elite weapons for Terry Bradshaw in the 1970's to help the Steelers win four Super Bowls in a span of six seasons. They might not be the best dynamic duo at the wide receiver position, but rarely would you ever find a pair of hall of fame players that worked in tandem so well to help a team be as successful as the 1970's Steelers.
While Lynn Swann was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame first, earned a Super Bowl MVP award in Super Bowl X, and had some of the most iconic football catches in the history of the sport, Stallworth deserves just as much credit as Swann for the things he did in his career.
While many of our die-hard Steelers fans who frequent this column of our throwback Thursdays think of John Stallworth's most iconic moment for his two crazy touchdowns in Super Bowl XIV against the Los Angeles Rams, we have done some digging here at BTSC to find some moments that might not be as readily available for Steelers fans to review.
Nobody could ever question John Stallworth's heart on the field. Growing up in the household of Steelers fans and football lovers, my father always told me that Stallworth was his favorite receiver in Steelers' history because of the many great plays he made and the way he made them happen. Watch Stallworth come back for this pass with two defenders hanging onto him, stiff arm two defenders and tip-toe into the end zone. This game would end in a blowout, as the Dolphins had no answers for the Steelers' high powered offense. Stallworth and Swann were each in their sixth season in the NFL, making for this to be the prime of their careers. Combine experience with their own natural ability and defenses could have no answer for the duo when they and Bradshaw were healthy and on their game.
Touchdown vs. Oakland Raiders 1975 AFC Championship
This game was a crazy game of 13 turnovers between the two teams as they played on a cold and icy day in Pittsburgh. It took two gutsy fourth quarter touchdown plays for Pittsburgh to take a lead that they would not relinquish. Stallworth was able to keep his footing just enough on the icy astro-turf of Three Rivers Stadium to make a leaping catch late in the fourth quarter that would give the Steelers their final points of the game and the clinching score that would send them to Super Bowl X.
Crushing blocks against the Raiders 1975 AFC Championship game
The first touchdown of that same game came from a big time run from Steelers' running back, Franco Harris. Harris would be sprung loose from a just as big time block from John Stallworth. Steelers fans today became accustomed to huge crushing hits from Hines Ward in the late 1990's and the 2000's, but Stallworth was not shy from leveling defenders either. The Raiders were arguably the next closest thing to the Steelers when it came to tough defenses of the 1970's, but that did not stop Stallworth from leveling two Raiders with the same block and giving Harris the one-on-one matchup to the outside that allowed him to easily shrug off a defender and score a touchdown.
Stallworth's legacy is too unsung
If you read Gary Pomerantz's book on the Steelers, "Their Life's Work," you can find a great story about how John Stallworth and Lynn Swann were drafted. Swann went to the University of South California, a highly reputable national program that was often in the spotlight of Division I NCAA football. He was a high on the draft board of many teams during the 1974 NFL Draft, which led to the Steelers grabbing him in the first round.
Pittsburgh scout, Bill Nunn however, was frantically urging Steelers coach Chuck Noll to grab John Stallworth out of Alabama A&M in the first round because he thought Stallworth would go very early in the draft. Alabama A&M is a historically black college and university (HBCU) that has never been in the national spotlight of NCAA football the manner which USC has been. Nunn's great contributions to building the 1970's team included finding the raw talent around the country at HBCU's which often went ignored by the NFL, but not the once editor of the Pittsburgh Courier.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Nunn was still able to watch as the Steelers selected Stallworth in the fourth round of the same draft, making for two future hall of fame wide receivers for Pittsburgh selected on the same day. Swann and Stallworth would accompany Jack Lambert and Mike Webster as selection of the Steelers to comprise the greatest draft class of a single team in NFL history. Though they would later be joined by Donnie Shell as an undrafted player, their legacy as four hall of fame players that built the NFL's greatest dynasty needs no further justification as to why they deserved that title.
But for Stallworth, his years with the Steelers would go similarly to how he was selected three rounds after Swann. He would be just as good, if not better, than Swann over the years, but his quiet demeanor was often overshadowed by Swann's superstar personality on the team. Swann would make two of the most iconic catches in Super Bowl history during Super Bowl X and score a touchdown that would immortalize him in the history of the game and make him the first wide receiver to win Super Bowl MVP. Arguably Stallworth deserved the same award when he would score two touchdowns in Super Bowl XIV, one of which being a ridiculous reverse shoulder catch that amazed everyone who saw it. Bradshaw would earn his second Super Bowl MVP for his performance, which kept Stallworth from the spotlight again.
To Stallworth's credit, he never needed the spotlight. His relationship with Swann and chemistry on the Steelers was part of what made that team so amazing and allowed so many superstars to be on the team at the same time. Stallworth would be one of many, but he would also be one of the best to ever play the position. He will rarely, if ever, be put on a list of the greatest wide receivers of all time because many overlook his lack of huge statistic feats in the style of the game in the 1970's, but those who know the game, know just what Stallworth brought to the gridiron.