True enough, because Pittsburgh Linebacker Jack Lambert had said earlier, talking about the Blue Collar Bowl, "We bring out the ornery in each other."
These Blue Collar Bowls have a lusty history, not all of it having to do with what happens on the field. It is a game where either 10,000 Cleveland fans or 10,000 Pittsburgh fans load up on shots and beer, then load up on buses or campers and go 135 miles in one direction or the other for an Archie Bunker tailgate party. One year the Cleveland police chief called Pittsburgh Owner Art Rooney and said he didn't mind Art's fans falling off the buses when they arrived, but he sort of hated to see the drivers doing the same thing.
In the beginning, Cleveland always won the game with its Otto Grahams and Marion Motleys and Lou Grozas. It was four years and eight games before Pittsburgh won for the first time in 1954. Jim Finks, who now is the Chicago Bears' general manager, was the Steeler quarterback in those pre-Bobby Layne, pre-Bradshaw days, and he threw four touchdown passes to a group of people Rooney called his "No College" receivers as the Steelers won 55-27. Late in that game Finks said in the huddle, "I'm in ecstasy," and some Steeler offensive tackle, obviously from "No College," blinked and said, "On what count?"
Such is the lore of the series, a war that matches NFL teams that don't even have cheerleaders—half naked or otherwise. If they did, of course, they would probably look more like Ward Bond than the Embraceable Cowgirls. It is also a series matching teams that can't even afford helmet decals. The Browns wear none, and the Steelers have them on only one side. Ed Kiely, the Steelers' longtime director of public relations, says, "It's the most-often-asked question by our fans. Why the decal on only one side? You want the true answer? The equipment man's lazy."
The Blue Collars aside, after the Steelers were fortunate enough to keep possession on the non-fumble of the overtime kickoff, one had to assume they would then find a way to go ahead and win the game. Another Bradshaw-to-Stallworth pass got them moving for 17 yards to their 41, and when they were confronted with a fourth-and-one on the 50, they took the gamble and sent Harris pounding into the middle for the first down. Then again, maybe it isn't much of a gamble when you have a Harris at your disposal. Still, it was risky. After that, Bradshaw hit Swann for 11 yards. Bleier made a yard, and now it was second down and nine at the Cleveland 37. It was looking very much like Roy Gerela time again for the Steelers.
But that was when Bradshaw spoke the following words in the Pittsburgh huddle: "This is it. Fake 84 reverse, gadget pass."
The play unfolded with Bleier taking a hand-off from Bradshaw and starting to his right. It continued with Bleier handing the ball off to Swann, who had set to the right but now was running back across the field to his left. For a moment it seemed as though it was going to be some kind of an end-around play, something terribly in vogue around the NFL these days.
Suddenly, though, Swann pitched the ball back to Bradshaw, who was retreating. All the while Bradshaw had been watching Cunningham, his tight end, churning toward the right corner of the Cleveland end zone, and he saw that Cunningham was open. The pass was perfect. So was the catch on the three by Cunningham, who then loped alone across the goal line. But why not let Swann describe it in the words of a poet.
"After I finished my fake," he said, "I saw Terry standing as tall as a redwood. The ball was a mile in the air, and Bennie was towering over the secondary. It was the prettiest thing I ever saw."
It was just about the only perfectly executed play of the whole day, but even a Blue Collar Bowl deserves a touch of beauty.