"Best Steelers Team Of All-Time" Playoffs: Round One

Josh Taylor@_joshtaylor_Contributor IJune 3, 2009

(1) 1975 vs.  (8) 1974

This game was the most rare of the first round, with two teams from consecutive years forced to play against each other.

The '75 Steelers opened the game with an eight-play, 60-yard drive that saw a fumble by Franco Harris that the offense recovered, and a critical third down conversion where Terry Bradshaw hit tight end Larry Brown for a 17-yard gain.

On 1st and goal at the 10 following a 13-yard run by Harris, Bradshaw found John Stallworth in the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead following a Roy Gerela extra point.

Gerela added onto the lead with a 26-yard field goal with 3:14 left to make it 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. That field goal was set up by a 39-yard run by Harris from their own 48-yard line.

The '74 Steelers struck back in the second quarter when Bradshaw threw a touchdown pass to Lynn Swann from the 2-yard line right after the two-minute warning to cut the lead to three at the half. A 43-yard pickup by Harris on a sweep helped put the Steelers deep in the red zone.

The '74 team struck quickly off the second half kickoff, with Bradshaw hitting Brown over the middle for an 18-yard gain on the first play of the half, followed by a 55-yard run by Rocky Bleier that gave them a 1st and goal on the 4.

Harris finished it off, pounding into the end zone from one yard out to give the '74 Steelers the lead, 14-10.

Off a three-and-out, the '74 Steelers took the ball on their own 29, looking to expand their lead, but an interception by Mel Blount gave the '75 team the ball.

Rocky Bleier turned it into a four-yard touchdown run to give the '75 team the lead, 17-14.

Gerela added a 28-yard field goal with 9:58 to go in the fourth to stretch the lead to 20-14, and they would hold on from there, despite losing the ball on their own 19 with less than a minute remaining.

Joe Gilliam's pass to Brown in the end zone with 27 seconds left was overthrown, and the battle of the first two Super Bowl champions in team history came to a close.

Harris was the Player of the Game for the '75 squad, rushing 21 times for 111 yards and catching four passes for 35 yards.

'75 Steelers 20, '74 Steelers 14  FINAL


(4) 1979 vs. (5) 2005

This matchup between the fourth and fifth world championship Steelers teams wasn't even close.

Terry Bradshaw earned Player of the Game honors, completing 24 of 36 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers with no interceptions, and Franco Harris ran for 80 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown in a 35-3 rout.

Harris also caught five passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. Lynn Swann caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, while John Stallworth caught six for 76 yards.

The '05 Steelers offense couldn't hold onto the football with six turnovers. Ben Roethlisberger completed only six of 20 passes for 91 yards and three interceptions.

He was replaced by Tommy Maddox, who didn't fare much better; He completed only two of seven for 18 yards and another pick.

Jerome Bettis rushed for 55 yards on nine carries, and Antwaan Randle-El had 85 total yards on two catches and a 38-yard gain on an end around in the losing effort.

Donnie Shell led the '79 defense with five tackles and an interception. Chris Hope and Larry Foote tied for the '05 team lead with eight tackles apiece.

'79 Steelers 35, '05 Steelers 3  FINAL


(3) 1978 vs. (6) 2008

Roethlisberger overcame being sacked four times and an interception by Mike Wagner to complete 18 of 21 passes for 261 yards to carry the '08 Steelers to a 16-3 victory in a huge first-round upset.

Both teams struggled running the football as the '08 team gained only 81 yards on 36 carries, while the '78 team rushed 34 times for 77 yards.

The '08 defense frustrated Bradshaw, holding him to only 84 yards passing with two interceptions at the hands of Troy Polamalu and Tyrone Carter. LaMarr Woodley recorded their only sack to go with his three tackles.

Shell and Jack Ham gave a solid effort for the '78 defense with seven tackles apiece. Shell had two sacks while Ham and Jack Lambert each added one.

The '78 team's lone points came on a 38-yard field goal by Roy Gerela with six minutes remaining in the first quarter to give them a 3-0 lead.

The '08 squad's five-play, 37-yard drive to open the second quarter was capped by Heath Miller's 14-yard touchdown catch, which gave them the lead the rest of the way.

The '08 receivers were plenty busy as Hines Ward caught six passes for 120 yards (including one for 54 yards), and Santonio Holmes caught four passes for 62.

Jeff Reed's three consecutive field goals from 49, 42, and 33 yards, respectively, closed out the scoring.

'08 Steelers 16, '78 Steelers 3  FINAL


(2) 1972 vs. (7) 2004

The best battle of the first round was fought on the ground, but was won by the foot.

Roy Gerela's 31-yard field goal with 1:09 left in the game was the deciding score as the '72 team edged out a 16-13 win.

Both teams were very successful running the football, as Jerome Bettis won Player of the Game honors with 17 rushes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Duce Staley added 93 yards on 12 carries.

The '72 team ran the ball 41 times for for 169 yards. Franco Harris (a rookie in '72) rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries, and Preston Pearson ran for 33 yards on only six carries.

The '72 team dominated the first quarter as Gerela hit the first of his three field goals, and Terry Bradshaw threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Dave Smith to jump out to a 10-0 lead at the end of the quarter.

Bradshaw completed only eight of 20 passes for 98 yards; Three of them went to Frank Lewis for 48 yards. Ben Roethlisberger (another rookie) also struggled, completing only seven of 23 passes for 87 yards and an interception by Jack Ham.

Gerela and Jeff Reed traded field goals in the second quarter, giving the '72 team a 13-3 lead at the half.

Reed's 27-yard kick with 31 seconds remaining was the lone score of the third quarter, cutting the '04 team's deficit to only a touchdown.

Aaron Smith registered one of his two sacks early in the fourth, forcing the '72 team to punt. Antwaan Randle-El returned the punt across midfield to the 46-yard line, giving them good field position.

On 1st and 10, Staley took a lead draw hand-off for 44 yards, setting up a 1st and Goal at the 2. Bettis did the rest, pounding it in on the next play, and Reed's extra point tied the game with 10:30 remaining.

The '72 team got the ball at its own 36 with 6:26 left in the game, and drove 50 yards on 12 plays, with Harris rushing for 29 yards on three carries during the drive.

Bradshaw made the game-saving play on 3rd and 8 at the '04 team's 16-yard line, avoiding a sack and scrambling out of bounds to stay in field goal range and set up Gerela's game-winner.

'72 Steelers 16, '04 Steelers 13  FINAL


(Please Note: All of these game recaps are works of fiction. They are based on simulations conducted at WhatIfSports. They are carried out by random computer simulation and are not at all altered by the author. Ergo, if you don't like the results, then go do your own simulation! For more information on fantasy simulations and simulation fantasy leagues, please visit www.whatifsports.com.)


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