We are only 43 days away from Super Bowl LII. To commemorate this not so special occasion, let’s reminisce about the Super Bowl from 43 years ago. It was the NFC champion Minnesota Vikings taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers of the American Football Conference. Minnesota Iron vs. Pittsburgh Steel.
New Orleans hosted the game. Originally, It was scheduled for the comfort of the brand-new Superdome. However, the structure was not completed in time for the big game. So, for the third time, old Tulane Stadium was the venue.
Minnesota Vikings 43 Years Ago
The Vikings were playing in their third Super Bowl. They lost to Kansas City in January 1970. Then, the Dolphins dumped them in January 1974. Undeterred, they marched through their 1974 season with nary a glitch. Indeed, Minnesota came to Super Bowl VIII with virtually the same cast of characters from Super Bowl VIII.
During the regular season, the Vikings were led by the outstanding running back Chuck Foreman. Foreman was a threat in the running game, the passing game and he scored a lot. He would have been a fantasy football gem.
In the playoffs, the Vikings downed Don Coryell and his St. Louis Cardinals, 30-14 in frigid Metropolitan Stadium. The following week, Minnesota hosted the Los Angeles Rams.
In a hotly contested, low-scoring affair, the Vikings’ red zone play was the difference. The Rams got an incredible James Harris to Harold Jackson completion which put the Rams inside Minnesota’s five-yard line. But, the Vikes got a deflected interception to thwart the threat. They answered with an 80-yard scoring drive putting them up 14-3 in the fourth. They held on for a 14-10 victory.
Pittsburgh Steelers Defense 43 Years Ago
Their opponents in Super Bowl IX were the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers were all about one thing in 1974: defense. Their “steel curtain” was dynamite. In fact, that unit played arguably the best team defense over a three-year span (1974-76) in NFL history.
Joe Greene, LC Greenwood, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes played on the line. The linebackers were Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, and Jack Ham. In the backfield were Glen Edwards, Mike Wagner, JT Thomas and Mel Blount. Every one of those players made the Pro Bowl at least once in their career.
Indeed, “Mean” Joe Greene was Chuck Noll’s very first draft pick when he started his tenure as head coach in 1969. However, it was the 1974 draft that goes down in football annals. For, along with Lambert, Pittsburgh selected Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. Yes, the Steelers drafted four Hall of Famers in one class!
Pittsburgh Steelers Offense 43 Years Ago
Perhaps the Steelers’ most popular players were QB Terry Bradshaw and RB Franco Harris. Harris was rock solid from the get go. Bradshaw, on the other hand, struggled through five seasons of mediocrity. Even during the 1974 championship season, many felt the Steelers should turn to Joe Gilliam as the full-time starter.
But, Bradshaw had a cannon for an arm and tremendous poise in big games. That arm and poise was on display in their opening round playoff win over OJ Simpson and the Buffalo Bills.
In the AFC Championship game, the Steelers traveled to Oakland to play John Madden and the Raiders. Pittsburgh and Oakland played in three straight championship games with the Steelers winning the first two. On this day, Ham came up with two interceptions and Franco Harris gashed Oakland’s defense for 111 yards and two scores. The Steelers clinched their first title in 42 seasons!
Vegas posted the Steelers as 3-point favorites and a ridiculous 33 over/under. Thirty-three was a gift to total players as Minnesota barely threatened to score all game long. The Vikings’ only points came on a blocked punt return by strong safety Terry Brown.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, moved the ball well thanks to their rushing attack. Harris finished the day with 158 yards and a third quarter touchdown. Somehow, late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings were still in the game despite their only accumulating 100 yards of total offense.
With the score 9-6, the Steelers led by Bradshaw and tight end Larry Brown drove for a clinching touchdown. Thus, Pittsburgh claimed their championship. This would not be their last. They successfully defended their title in 1975.
The Vikings were emotionally deflated. But, Bud Grant gracefully led them back for an ever better 1975. Unfortunately, they were upset at home by the young Dallas Cowboys. However, the Vikings made it back to the Super Bowl following the 1976. Oakland steamrolled the Vikings. And they have not been back to the big game.
Tomorrow, we’ll be 42 days away from Super Bowl LII. So, we’ll discuss the Super Bowl from 42 years ago between the Steelers and Cowboys. And, while Super Bowl IX was a dreadfully dull game, Super Bowl X was an amazing contest.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills