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History

#2 Greatest Play & Game at Three Rivers Stadium

Pittsburgh - No game in the 68-year history of the Pittsburgh Steelers changed the fate of the franchise more than the Dec. 23, 1972 Divisional Playoff game.

Interestingly, if it wasn't for one highly improbable play in the final seconds of the contest, which was selected as the second-greatest game in Three Rivers Stadium as part of the Steelers' Last Season at Three Rivers Celebration, the legacy of the Pittsburgh Steelers and their four Super Bowl championships may have been altered forever.

The second-greatest play, meanwhile, was one of Lynn Swann's acrobatic receptions, a leaping catch over a Denver Bronco defender in the Dec. 30, 1978 playoff game.


1972 AFC Playoffs
Pittsburgh 13, Oakland 7
The 13-7 Steelers victory against their archrival Oakland Raiders was the first home playoff win in Steelers history. Two unusual plays, one perhaps the oddest-and certainly the most controversial-in the long history of professional football, provided most of the offense in the final two minutes of what had been a tension-filled defensive struggle.

Throughout a scoreless first half, the Steelers managed just 71 total offensive yards and the Raiders, 91.

But, the Steelers manufactured an impressive scoring drive to open the second half that culminated in an 18-yard field goal by Roy Gerela. Both teams' defenses continued to dominate, though, and the third quarter ended with the Steelers maintaining a 3-0 lead.

The offensive fireworks began with a little more than six minutes remaining in the game, sparked by the Steelers defense. Safety Mike Wagner recovered a Ken Stabler fumble at the Raiders' 35-yard line. Unable to sustain a drive, the Steelers settled for a 29-yard field goal to increase their lead to 6-0.

The Raiders offense responded with an impressive scoring drive of their own, marching 80 yards on 12 plays to claim a 7-6 lead. A scrambling Stabler, who nearly was caught in the backfield, raced untouched for a 30-yard TD with 1:13 left in the game for what appeared to be a game-winning score.

The Steelers rallied miraculously. Faced with a fourth-and-10 and down to their final play at their own 40-yard line, the Steelers produced what later became known as the "Immaculate Reception." Bradshaw threw a long pass downfield toward the Steelers' John "Frenchy" Fuqua. The ball ricocheted backward and rookie Franco Harris made an incredible shoe-top catch and ran 42 yards for the winning TD. The dispute on the game-winning play centered on whether the flight of the ball was altered by the contact of Oakland's Jack Tatum or the Steelers' John Fuqua.


Lynn Swann's touchdown reception from Terry Bradshaw in AFC Playoff win against Denver
Lynn Swann was as graceful and elegant a receiver as the NFL has ever seen. His knack for making acrobatic catches made him one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL.

In a 1978 playoff game against the Denver Broncos, Swann made one of those patent catches, leaping high in the air at the goal line for a 38-yard TD in a 33-10 Steelers win.

To set the scene: After the Steelers padded their lead comfortably to 26-10 with 11 minutes remaining in the game, they recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and gained possession at the Broncos 29-yard line. A Steelers holding penalty pushed the Steelers back to the Broncos' 38. Faced with a second-and-19, Bradshaw backpedaled and found Swann at Denver's goal line. Swann leaped high over a Broncos defender for the touchdown to virtually clinch the victory for the Steelers.

What seemed like an average catch for Swann, most receivers would not have come close to catching.

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Game Notes: Each home game there will be honorary game captains, who played for the Steelers during their 31 seasons at Three Rivers. This week's captains are: offensive lineman Emil Boures (1982-86), running back Jack Deloplaine (1976-79), linebacker Marv Kellum (1974-76) and safety Mike Wagner (1971-80).