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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"I think the Rams were just excited," said Cornerback Mel Blount, like Greene a veteran of Steeler Coach Chuck Noll's eight playoff teams. "You know, it's the Super Bowl and all that."

If Hollywood, not Pasadena, had been hosting XIV, the Rams would have driven those 83 yards and put the game away, and the losingest team—9-7 on the regular season—ever to come into a Super Bowl would have tasted the golden bubbly. But what happened was that the Rams ran three plays, gained six yards and had to punt. And it was a terrific punt by Ken Clark, 59 yards, one yard short of his career best. The Steelers got the ball on their own 25, and, hey, the Rams were still on top of this game.

First-and-10: Jack Reynolds stuffs Franco Harris after a couple of yards. Second-and-eight: Sidney Thornton drops a screen pass, but the play is messed up anyway because Gerry Mullins, the Steeler right guard, is 10 yards down-field. Hang on, Rams, the champs are coming apart. Third-and-eight at the Pittsburgh 27 and what to do? Normally, the Steelers would have gone into a three-wide-receiver set and tried to work something underneath the zone defense for the first down, but they didn't have three wide receivers left.

Lynn Swann had given the Steelers a brief 17-13 lead in the third quarter with a leaping catch of a 47-yard touchdown a pass, but he had been knocked out of the game one series later as the result of a very bad decision by Bradshaw. Bradshaw had rolled to his left, looking for help, and had dumped the ball to Swann, curling to the left side. Throw late over the middle and you run the risk of getting either an interception or one of your receivers killed. Bradshaw got the ball high to Swann, who got a very rough ride from Cornerback Pat Thomas. When Swann came to, his vision was blurred and one whole area was totally blank. "Lower right quadrant," he said. "I couldn't see anything at all in that area. The doc told me I'd had it for the day."

Theo Bell, a backup receiver for the Steelers, had been removed from the game after taking a vicious shot by Linebacker George Andrews on a punt, and now, with third-and-eight on their own 27, with a little over 12 minutes to go and trailing by two points, the Steelers had only two wide receivers left on the roster. Bennie Cunningham, the tight end, split wide left. Jim Smith, Swann's backup, was wide right, and Stallworth was in the slot inside him. Chuck Noll sent in the play: "60 Prevent Slot Hook and Go." A pass to Stallworth, who would make a little hitch inside and then take off.

"I didn't like the call," Bradshaw said, "but, you know, the coach sent it in. I hadn't been hitting that pass all week. It's a matter of building confidence. You don't build confidence in things that don't work. Maybe it was our ace in the hole, I don't know."

It hadn't been a good week for Bradshaw. He was beat, having slept only four or five hours a night. The night before the game he went to bed at midnight but woke up at 3 a.m. "I couldn't get back to sleep," he said. He had dragged through the practices, the interview sessions, the pre-Super Bowl madness that turned the Steelers' Newport Beach hotel into a zoo. Meanwhile, the Rams were practicing on their home turf over in Anaheim and going home to the wife and kiddies at night. On Thursday, Bradshaw gave one of his zillion radio interviews of the week. His answers were mechanical.

"You certainly seem laid-back going into this game," the guy with the mike said.

"Yeah, well, you know, we've been here before," Bradshaw said, giving stock answer No. 435.

"Laid-back, hell, I'm tired. Tired," he said later. "I'm not sleeping. I just can't sleep.... I don't know what it is. Pressure, I guess. Tension. I've never felt it this bad. I haven't thrown the ball well in two weeks. I'm just tired of football. Drained."

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