Steelers measured up to every test
Wow, the people of the Truth-in-Advertising Council can stop worrying and go back to putting their feet up on their desks. Everything that's been said about the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the line that they are the best pro football team in the world, made headlines Sunday in a 31-19 win against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV.
The rams put the Steelers to just about every offensive-defensive test you can think of during 60 minutes of hard-hart football. Los Angeles even put Pittsburgh in the position of having to come from behind in the fourth quarter to win.
Quarterback Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers, the game's Most Valuable Player, has had better outings. In fact, the Ram defense read him well enough to grab three interceptions and take away Pittsburgh's running game.
But Bradshaw just kept throwing deep until he got things right, and in Terry's case right turned out to be wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. Swan caught a third-quarter touchdown bomb that traveled 47 yards, then Bradshaw and Stallworth connected on a 74-yard fourth-period play for the winning TD.
The Pittsburgh QB completed 14 of 21 passes for 309 yards, making the big plays work when he had to, and basically that was all that separated the two teams. In addition to his two touchdown tosses, Terry's passes set up the other two Pittsburgh TDs, both scored by Franco Harris on short runs, as well as the 41-yard field goal by Matt Bahr that opened the scoring.
"Although everybody seemed to be saying or writing during Super Bowl week how easy the Rams would be for us, we never believed that for a minute," Steeler Coach Chuck Noll told reporters after the game. "Actually our scouting staff and the reports they turned in rated LA very highly.
"Defensively there are two things the Rams do extremely well," Chuck continued."One is the way they shut off your running game, and the other is the way they contain the short pass.
"Oh, you can complete short passess against them all right. That's not the problem. The problem is that their defense is on your receiver so quickly after he catches the ball that he never gets the chance to run anywhere with it."
But Noll also suggested by some of his remarks that in creating this situation, Los Angeles inadvertently provided a solution.
"By taking our short passing game away from us, the Rams forced us to send our receivers deep, where several times their defense was only able to mount man-to-man coverage against us," Chuck explained.
"Actually Bradshaw misread the defense on his touchdown bomb to Swann, who was double-teamed and had to make a spectacular leaping catch to get the score," he said. "But Stallworth's TC was against single coverage, and so were the two passes that set up our other scores."
In putting together his game plan for Super Sunday, Noll said that Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh staff agreed that this was one time when a high percentage of completions on short passes wouldn't mean very much.
"So we decided to go deep and hope that we could make the big plays and maybe complete a couple of bombs," Chuck said. "We did, only the Rams played so well it took us a little longer than usual."
Asked if Sunday's game was the higlight of Pittsburgh's four Super Bowl victories in the past six years, Noll replied:
"I don't know if I can answer that question, because getting here the first time is always so important and stays in your mind. But this one was special in the sense that we had a lot of people on the field Sunday who were not 100 percent physically.
"Normally our offensive line will create openings for our running backs against any team," he explained. "We depend on this to set up our passing game. Although we didn't move the ball on the ground that well against the Rams, I was satisfied under the circumstances."
The best story of the day probably was the way LA quarterback Vince Ferragamo , starting only his eighth pro game ever, responded to the pressure of a Super Bowl. Ferragamo never rushed anything. He threw well (completing 15 of 25 passes for 212 yards), and he was probably his team's most valuable player.
Although Vince threw one interception late in the fourth period to Steeler linebacker Jack Lambert, when it looked as though the Rams still had a chance to win, he did a remarkable job for someone with so little experience.
For all those who thought the Rams would shop up for Super Bowl XIV in Gucci loafers and rhinestone Levi's and then switch to tuxedos when the sky started to turn dark in the second half, Sunday was probably a disappointment.
I won't go so far as to say the Rams won everything but the football game, but their defense rated at least a 7 on the Richter scale.