Pittsburgh - Steelers fans will always remember the 1978 and '79 seasons, both Super Bowl championship years, as two of the most memorable seasons in Steelers history, so it is no surprise that two of the top 10 games and plays in Three Rivers Stadium history were selected from those campaigns.
As part of the Steelers' season-long Last Season at Three Rivers Stadium celebration, fans selected both the 10th Greatest Game and Play at Three Rivers from those two campaigns. Those two moments will be announced during the Steelers-Dolphins contest this Saturday. Throughout the season, there will be both a Great Game and Great Play announced during all 10 home games of the 2000 season, counting up from 10 to one.
Selected as the 10th greatest game in Three Rivers Stadium history was the Steelers' dominating AFC Championship Game victory on Jan. 7, 1979 versus AFC Central-rivals Houston Oilers. The Steelers defeated the Houston Oilers, 34-5, in weather Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham described as the "worst" in which he has ever played.
The 10th greatest play was John Stallworth's juggling catch in the Nov. 3, 1979 Washington Redskins game that culminated in a 65-yard touchdown reception.
The Steelers built a 14-3 lead on touchdown runs by Franco Harris of seven yards and Rocky Bleier of 17 yards. They broke the game open with a 17-point burst in the last 52 seconds of the first half by capitalizing on three Houston fumbles. Both touchdowns in this span came on Terry Bradshaw passes to John Stallworth and Lynn Swann.
The Steelers quarterback was spectacular in completing 11-of-19 attempts for 200 yards while Dan Pastorini, his counterpart, was harassed by the Pittsburgh defense and the weather. He was intercepted five times and sacked on four occasions, and the tremendous Steelers pass rush forced him to throw most of the game under severe pressure. Rookie Earl Campbell, the NFL's leading rusher, was limited to 26 yards on 15 carries in the first half and finished the game with just 62 yards on 22 attempts.
The Steelers' dominance was best exhibited by the first-half yardage totals, which had them in a 287-54 lead. All-Pro linebacker Jack Ham was a standout with an interception, two fumble recoveries and a sack. The Steelers enjoyed great field position most of the game, which was aided by 90 yards in interception returns and 91 yards on Theo Bell's six punt returns.
"The first thing I think of with that game is the weather," said Jack Ham. "It was probably the most miserable weather in which I have ever played. Because Houston played in the Astrodome, it could not have been fun for them.
"Our defense really set the tone early in the game," Ham added. "On the first play, Earl Campbell tried running the ball, and L.C. Greenwood made a great play to take on two blockers that enabled me to stop Earl in the backfield.
"The game was a classic example of a warm-weather team heading North for the playoffs. That is why you play for home-field advantage during the season."
To set the scene: The Steelers were hosting the Washington Redskins Nov. 4, 1979 in an inter-Conference contest. Pittsburgh had a commanding 31-7 lead in the game. Stallworth's catch in the fourth quarter ended any hopes for a Redskins comeback.
Facing a second-and-eight from the Steelers' 35-yard line, quarterback Terry Bradshaw found Stallworth with man-to-man coverage down the middle of the field.
Bradshaw unleashed a bullet that nearly eluded Stallworth's outstretched arms. Stallworth managed to get his fingertips on the ball, tipped the ball on his fingertips, retrieved it and ran 52 yards untouched for a 65-yard touchdown reception.
Many great plays followed that season, and the Steelers went on to capture Super Bowl XIV in Pasadena, Calif., with a 31-19 victory against the Los Angeles Rams for their fourth World Championship.
Game Notes: As part of the Steelers Last Season celebration, three former Steelers players, who played at Three Rivers Stadium, will serve as honorary game captains for each of the Steelers 10 home games in 2000. This week's captains are offensive linemen John Brown (1967-72) and Ted Peterson (1977-83, 87), and linebacker Craig Bingham (1982-84, 87)...Additionally, fans attending all home games throughout the season will receive a collectible trading card depicting a Great Moment in Steelers history. The trading card can be redeemed at local Giant Eagle stores for a pin with the same Great Moment featured.