In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
In the first ever Super Bowl rematch, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys 35-31 in a thriller for Super Bowl XIII at the Miami Orange Bowl. The game was a battle for the right to be called the team of the 1970s as both teams were seeking to become the first team to win three Lombardi Trophies. Terry Bradshaw wins the Super Bowl MVP, passing for 318 yards with four touchdown passes.
The two teams that most symbolized excellence in football during the 1970s were the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cowboys played in five Super Bowls during the decade, winning twice, while the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing in their third Super Bowl in a five-year stretch. The team had met before in the big game, playing in Super Bowl X in the Orange Bowl, won by the Steelers 21-17.
The Dallas Cowboys coached by Tom Landry were playing in their third Super Bowl in four years, seeking to win back-to-back Lombardi Trophies led by their Doomsday Defense. The Cowboys posted a 12-4 record in the regular season, easily winning the NFC East. In the Divisional Round, the Cowboys trailed at halftime and scored 14-unanswered points in the second half to fend off the pesky Atlanta Falcons 27-20. They went on to beat the Los Angeles Rams 28-0 in the NFC Championship game, blowing open a defensive struggle late.
The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl four times in six years, the 1978 team is considered the best of those teams as they finished at 14-2 under coach Chuck Noll with the Steel Curtain Defense leading the way again. The Steelers ended a two-year absence from the Super Bowl by crushing the defending AFC Champion Denver Broncos 33-10 in the Divisional Round and drilling the Houston Oilers 34-5 in the AFC Championship Game.
Heading into the Super Bowl, Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers were handed bulletin board material when Dallas Linebacker Hollywood Henderson said the Pittsburgh Quarterback was so dumb, he could not spell Cat of he was spotted a C and a T. However, no hype was needed as the winner would be the first to win the Super Bowl three times, as a total of 14 Hall of Famers lined up for both teams, nine for the Steelers (Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount) and five for the Cowboys (Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Rayfield Wright and Jackie Smith). As well as both coaches Chuck Noll and Tom Landry.
The Cowboys took the opening drive into Pittsburgh, but Drew Pearson fumbled attempting a reverse. The Steelers took advantage going right down the field, as Terry Bradshaw completed a 28-yard touchdown pass to John Stallworth. The Steelers moved the ball well on their second possession, but it ended in Dallas territory as D.D. Lewis picked off Bradshaw. The Cowboys were unable to cash in the turnover as the Steelers quickly got the ball back, with Ed “Too Tall” Jones sacking Bradshaw and recovering a fumble. This time the Cowboys would cash in, with a 39-yard pass from Roger Staubach to Tony Hill. The Steelers continued to be bitten by the turnover bug in the second quarter, as Mike Hegman scooped up a Bradshaw fumble and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. Trailing 14-7, the Steelers turned things around on one play as Bradshaw connected with John Stallworth on a 75-yard pass to John Stallworth who broke free after catching a ten-yard throw at the 35. After a three and out, the Steelers had a chance to retake the lead, but Roy Gerela missed a 51-yard field goal. Late in the second quarter, the Cowboys were driving to take the lead, but Mel Blount picked off Staubach giving the ball back to Bradshaw. The Steelers would go on to score on a four-yard catch by Rocky Bleier to give the Steelers a 21-14 lead with 20 seconds to go in the half.
The defenses took command in the third quarter, as the Cowboys got the only points on a 27-yard field goal by Rafael Septien. One play earlier the Cowboys had a chance to tie the game, but Jackie Smith dropped an easy touchdown catch in the end zone. In the fourth quarter, the Steelers began to take command, extending their lead to 24-14 on a 22-yard run by Franco Harris. On the ensuing kickoff, Roy Gerela sent a squib kick that was mishandled by Randy White, setting up the Steelers deep in Dallas territory. Bradshaw responded with an 18-yard pass to Lynn Swann. Now down 35-17, the Cowboys faced desperation and drove down the field to keep their slim hopes alive with a seven-yard pass from Staubach to Billy Joe DuPree. The Cowboys would recover the on-side kick and scored again to cut the deficit to four points as Butch Johnson reeled in a four-yard pass from Staubach. However, with just 30 seconds left they needed to recover another on-side kick. This time Rocky Bleier was johnny on the spot recovering for the Steelers to clinch the victory.