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  • Tue., Dec. 02, 2014 12:00 PM - 12:30 PM EST Mike Tomlin Press Conference

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History

#5 Greatest Play & Game at Three Rivers Stadium

Pittsburgh - Even though the series lost some of its luster as a result of the Browns' three-year absence from the NFL from 1996-1998, the Pittsburgh-Cleveland rivalry remains one of the most intense in the NFL because of the similarities and proximity of the two cities. In fact, the Browns are the Steelers most common opponent, playing 96 total games against Cleveland.

While the Sept. 24, 1978 game against the Browns that Steelers fans voted as the fifth-greatest game in Three Rivers Stadium history as part of the Last Season at Three Rivers celebration had relatively little meaning so early in the 1978 season, it still was memorable: A 15-9 overtime victory that gave the Steelers sole possession of first place in the AFC Central and the Browns their first loss of the early season. It was the Browns' ninth straight defeat at Three Rivers Stadium.

The fifth-greatest play, coincidentally, occurred in that game, the winning 37-yard flea-flicker play that culminated in a TD pass from Terry Bradshaw to Bennie Cunningham.


1978 Overtime Victory
Pittsburgh 15, Cleveland 9
The game between the two teams was a classic, featuring two strong defenses and ball-control offenses. It was a game of virtually two different halves. The Browns controlled the first half, but the Steelers powered their way to a victory in the second half, compiling 260 yards in offense compared to 54 for the Browns. The win improved the Steelers record to 4-0, while the Browns suffered their first defeat of the season and ninth straight at Three Rivers Stadium.

The Steelers defense, which ran its string of quarters without allowing a touchdown to 10, set the tone early when they intercepted a Brian Sipe pass on the initial play of the game that led to a Steelers field-goal drive and a 3-0 advantage.

But, Cleveland responded with two second-quarter field goals and one in the third to surge to a 9-3 lead. The Steelers rallied from a 9-3 third-quarter deficit with consecutive field goals in the fourth quarter, the final with 2:35 remaining that sent the game to overtime.

Terry Bradshaw connected with tight end Bennie Cunningham for the game's only touchdown on a 37-yard flea-flicker at 3:43 of overtime. It was Bradshaw's 100th career touchdown pass. The play followed a controversial call of a Steelers fumble on the kickoff to start the overtime period.


Bennie Cunninham's 37-yard flea-flicker from Terry Bradshaw in OT against Cleveland
Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw's most famous connections have the surnames of Swann and Stallworth.

But the player who was on the end of a Bradshaw strike that was selected by Steelers fans as the fifth-greatest play in Three Rivers Stadium as part of the Steelers year-long Last Season at Three Rivers Stadium celebration was tight end Bennie Cunningham that occurred in the Sept. 24, 1978 game against the Cleveland Browns.

To set the scene: The Steelers rallied from a 9-3 deficit through three quarters to tie the game with 2:35 minutes to play, sending the game into overtime.

After a controversial call on an apparent fumble by Larry Anderson on the overtime kickoff gave the Steelers new life, the Steelers marched to the Browns 37-yard line. Faced with a second-and-nine, Bradshaw handed off to Rocky Bleier who handed off an apparent reverse to Lynn Swann who then lateraled the ball back to Bradshaw. Bradshaw then threw a long arching pass to Cunningham, who caught the ball at the three-yard line and ran in for the touchdown.

It also was Bradshaw's 100th career TD pass, and the victory gave the Steelers sole possession of first place in the AFC Central.

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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: running back Merril Hoge (1987-93), linebacker Robin Cole (1977-87) and offensive tackle Jon Kolb (1969-81).