SI Vault
1976 Pittsburgh Makes a Great Leap Forward
Dan Jenkins
February 15, 2006
Lynn Swann's acrobatic catches helped bring home a second title
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 15, 2006

1976 Pittsburgh Makes A Great Leap Forward

Lynn Swann's acrobatic catches helped bring home a second title

View CoverRead All Articles

For all of those gaudy things that happened throughout the afternoon, memories of the 1976 Super Bowl will keep going back to the Pittsburgh Steelers' Lynn Swann climbing into the air like the boy in the Indian rope trick and coming down with the football. He didn't come down with very many passes, really, only four, but he caught the ones that truly mattered. That is why it will seem that he spent the day way up there in the crisp sky, a thousand feet above Miami's Orange Bowl, where neither the Dallas Cowboys nor even a squadron of fighter planes could do anything to stop him. When it was all over, Swann and the Steelers had won 21-17 and had repeated as champions.

The thinking beforehand was that Pittsburgh could win this game only if Franco Harris trampled over and through a thing called the flex defense of the Cowboys who, in the meantime, on offense, would do enough weird things to the hard-hat Steelers to capture the day. Essentially Dallas stopped Harris, however, and the winning of Super Bowl X was left up to Swann and the indomitable Terry Bradshaw. It was Swann, soaring above the Cowboys' Mark Washington at the sideline, who fielded a Bradshaw pass of 32 yards and made the drive that put Pittsburgh back in the contest late in the first quarter.

And in the fourth quarter it was Swann who would make the biggest catch of the day, a 64-yard touchdown heave from Bradshaw, who didn't realize until much later, after his head stopped rattling, that he had passed for a score. The last catch of Swann's, which put the Steelers safely ahead 21-10, has to be dwelled on, for it had Super Bowl trophy and $15,000 to each Steeler written all over it. The play ended with Swann catching a rocket from Bradshaw that traveled at least 70 yards in the air, Swann jumping and taking it on the Dallas five-yard line and gliding in for the touchdown, and Bradshaw barely conscious on the ground after being decked by Cliff Harris on a safety blitz. For those who collect trivia, the name of the play was a 69 Maximum Flanker Post.

It was a beautifully thrown ball, a perfectly run pass route and a marvelous catch, all three at the most splendid moment of the game. "All I did," said Swann, "was run under the ball." That was enough.