In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Losers no more, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. The Steelers who had struggled for four decades finally came into their own in the 1970s, winning four Super Bowls in six years. The first was a defensive effort with Franco Harris taking MVP honors by rushing for 158 yards with one touchdown. However, the real stars were the Steel Curtain defense, which shut down Minnesota, allowing 119 yards and forcing five turnovers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers began to play in 1933. For much of their first 40 years, they were the NFL’s biggest loser. They were the only team that began play before 1960 that did not win at least one NFL Championship. The Steelers, in fact, never even played in the NFL Championship and never won a playoff game as they had just five winning seasons in their first 39 seasons. That would all change in 1972, when the Steelers won their first playoff game due to Immaculate Reception, before losing to the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship. Reaching the playoffs for the third straight season, the Steelers posted a record of 10-3-1 under coach Chuck Noll in 1974. They would reach the Super Bowl by beating the Buffalo Bills 32-14 and the Oakland Raiders 24-13.
The Minnesota Vikings were in the Super Bowl, hoping that the third time would be the charm as they had lost the big game twice, including the previous season under coach Bud Grant. The Vikings won their second straight NFC Championship by posting a record of 10-4. In the playoffs, they beat the St. Louis Cardinals 30-14 and the Los Angeles Rams 14-10.
Super Bowl IX was originally going to be played at the Superdome. However, the new domed stadium was not completed on time, forcing the game to be played at Tulane Stadium for the third time. Pittsburgh went into the game as a three-point favorite. The first half of the game was hardly befitting a championship game, as both teams played sloppy football. The Steelers had two chances to score early, but Roy Gerela missed a 37-yard field goal, while they turned the ball over on downs and the end of a scoreless first quarter. In the second quarter, the Vikings had their first chance to score after a fumble by Rocky Bleier, but Fred Cox missed a 39-yard field goal attempt keeping the game scoreless. Following the miss by Cox, the Steelers reached midfield but were forced to punt, pinning the Vikings deep in their own territory. This would lead to the only score of the first half as a poor snap led to Dwight White getting credited for the first safety in Super Bowl history. The Vikings did find some momentum late in the second quarter, but Fran Tarkenton was picked off by Mel Blount in the end zone.
Down 2-0, the Vikings began the third quarter on the wrong foot as Bill Brown fumbled Roy Gerela’s squib kick to start the second half. From there, the Steelers road the back of Franco Harris to score the first touchdown of the game. Harris was having a strong game as he set a new Super Bowl rushing record with 158 yards as the Steelers were taking the air out of the ball and the Vikings. It seemed every time, Minnesota began to find their groove, the Steel Curtain made a big play, as Mean Joe Greene picked off Tarkenton late in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Minnesota finally had their chance after Mike Wagner was called for pass interference, but a fumble by Chuck Foreman doomed the purple gang again.
Desperately needing a break, the Vikings finally got the break they needed when Bobby Walden had a punt blocked by Matt Blair and returned for a touchdown by Terry Brown. However, even when things came up right, the Vikings faltered as Fred Cox missed the PAT. Though the lead was just 9-6, the Steelers were still in command, as they went on a nearly seven-minute drive that was completed with Terry Bradshaw connecting with Larry Brown on a four-yard touchdown pass. On the next drive, Wagner had his second pick of the game to close out a 16-6 victory as Franco Harris was named MVP. The Steelers defense set records of fewest yards allowed at 119 and fewest first downs allowed in a Super Bowl with nine.
After the game, it was a crowning moment for Art Rooney, the Steelers longtime owner who had suffered through all the losing, now holding the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions.