Steelers Throwback Thursday: Super Bowl XIV “play of the game”

Steel City Underground takes fans back in time to feature events, special moments, and historical times and players in the world of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. Join us as we revisit these moments in our “Steelers Throwback Thursday” series.

There has been a long-standing joke that fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers “love living in the past,” an inference by fanbases of other NFL teams that the Steelers haven’t done anything memorable in decades. While Super Bowl victories are certainly spectacular, there have been plenty of big plays for Pittsburgh in recent years. We highlight several of those plays every week of Steelers seasons, year after year, here on our site.

Our Throwback Thursdays are as much about sharing moments with longtime fans as it is an opportunity to share why the Steelers have had such a longstanding following for decades to newer fans. This week, we look at one Super Bowl XIV moment that was called the Associated Press‘ “play of the game.”

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Showdown at the Rose Bowl

On January 20th (1980), the Steelers met the Los Angeles Rams in Pasadena, California in a game that ending up being a battle of wills and physicality. In fact, despite Pittsburgh being favored to win the game by a double-digit margin, the score was 19-17 in favor of the Rams as the fourth quarter began. Over 100,000 fans were in attendance, and they were there for the showdown.

The night before the game, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw admitted to the media that he had had a rough go. “I couldn’t shake the thought of losing,” the eventual Super Bowl XIV MVP said at the time. “And, I couldn’t sleep last night. It was the first time that’s happened to me.”

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The big play

Coming from behind against the Rams was a tall task. Steelers receiver Lynn Swann had to leave the game in the third quarter after a big hit by L.A. cornerback Pat Thomas. Los Angeles quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who was starting only his eighth pro game, was finding ways to hit targets down the field and move his offense.

On the Steelers’ first possession of the fourth quarter, Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh offense faced a 3-and-8 at their own 27-yard line. Stallworth sprinted off the line of scrimmage on a fly pattern down the middle of the field and Bradshaw led him perfectly. Stallworth sprinted past the guy who’d forced his teammate from the game and into the end zone for a touchdown, giving Pittsburgh the lead at 24-19. The play went for 73 yards.


“All we’ve run off that play all year is a hook and slide… (this) was a hook and go from the slot ” – T. Bradshaw

The play had only been put into the playbook the week before the big game and, in eight times they’d run it, it had been unsuccessful in practice. “It’s a funny thing… it didn’t work at all,” Bradshaw said.

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Rams defensive back Eddie Brown had taken the outside receiver, leaving Stallworth one-on-one over the middle of the field. Despite the Rams having six defensive backs in on the play, Bradshaw and Stallworth were able to combine for the “play of the game.”

The Steelers went on the win the game thanks to an interception of Ferragamo by linebacker Jack Lambert, another long catch by Stallworth, and a second rushing touchdown (in the game) by running back Franco Harris.

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