SI Vault
Paul Zimmerman
January 28, 1980
The scrappy Rams had 'em on the ropes in Super Bowl XIV, but the Steelers' old pros prevailed once again
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January 28, 1980

They Were Just Too Much

The scrappy Rams had 'em on the ropes in Super Bowl XIV, but the Steelers' old pros prevailed once again

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It was an emotional Super Bowl and easily the best of the XIV played so far. It was the way Super Bowls are supposed to be played, but haven't been. The score changed hands six times before it ended Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles 19, but only the guys who laid the 11 points with the bookies read it as a 12-point Steeler win. The Rams made it that close. They stayed in it because of a sustained intensity that brought them great honor, because of an unexpectedly brilliant performance by young Quarterback Vince Ferragamo, and because of a tackle-to-tackle ferocity that had the Steeler defense on its heels much of the afternoon.

But the Steelers aren't exactly virgins in this type of warfare, and when they needed the great plays they got them—two Terry Bradshaw-to-John Stallworth passes worth 118 yards in the fourth quarter and a deep interception by Jack Lambert on his own 14 that cut off the Rams with 5:24 left to play and Pittsburgh ahead 24-19. The Steelers routinely make the great plays, and when you get all excited about those feats, they'll look at you level and say things like: "I've made better catches in Super Bowls...a couple of one-handers one time" (Stallworth); or "It's part of our basic's on the films" (Lambert); or "I really didn't think it would work...I hadn't been completing it in practice" (Bradshaw).

Which is why the Steelers have won four Super Bowl rings in the last six years, and why Joe Greene can say, "This game was an invitation engraved in gold."

"An invitation to what?" someone asked, on cue.

"To immortality...along with those tremendous pacesetters, the Green Bay Packers," Greene said. He thought for a moment and then added, "Next year it'll all be forgotten. It'll be, 'What have you done for me lately?' A vicious, vicious cycle."

As the Steelers discovered on Sunday, it's getting tougher and tougher to stay on top. Two weeks before, Houston was supposed to roll over—but hadn't; the Oilers had hung tough until the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game. This time it was the Rams who were supposed to lie down. The betting was even money that Ferragamo, making only his eighth start, would not be in at the end. The only Ferragamo interview of note that had appeared in the papers during the week was a piece about his malapropisms: "How they arrived at their conclusions behooves me," etc.

But Ferragamo was clear-headed in Pasadena, and he led a very spirited team. As the clubs changed ends to start the fourth quarter with the Rams leading 19-17, a significant thing happened. The Rams had intercepted Bradshaw—for the third time—at the L.A. four-yard line, and Wendell Tyler had broken one for 13 yards, out to the 17, behind a big block by his fullback, Cullen Bryant. Then the whistle blew, and next thing you knew, the Rams were sprinting for the other end of the field.

"We talked about doing it," said Left Tackle Doug France. "It was a very good psych; it let them know we were ready to go. We had 83 yards to cover, and we had to show them we had the strength to do it. We were saying to them, 'Hey, we're not that tired.' "

The Steelers took their time switching ends. No sense getting all excited about a change of quarters.

"No, I didn't see it," Greene said of the L.A. sprint, showing a tiny bit of annoyance for the only time during the post-game interviews. "I had other things on my mind."

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