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Steelers by the decade: 1970s

Posted Jul 8, 2014

A decade-by-decade look at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

1970s

A 1-13 record in 1969 gave the Steelers the first overall choice in the 1970 draft, with which Noll addressed the offense by selecting quarterback Terry Bradshaw, another Hall of Famer, after the Steelers won the first selection by winning a coin toss with the Chicago Bears. Cornerback Mel Blount was added in the third round that year, followed by linebacker Jack Ham in 1971 and running back Franco Harris in 1972. In all, Noll drafted 10 players who are now enshrined in the Hall of Fame including three in his first 20 picks and four of his first 38.

Two significant changes took place in 1970. The Steelers moved from the NFL Century Division to the AFC Central with the merger of the American Football League and the NFL. The Steelers also moved into a new home as Three Rivers Stadium opened. Previously, the Steelers had played home games at Forbes Field from 1933-57 and at both Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium from 1958-63. From 1964-69 the Steelers played at Pitt Stadium until Three Rivers opened in 1970.

Gradual improvement in the early 1970s resulted in the team’s first division title in 1972 with an 11-3 record. In the first playoff game at Three Rivers the Steelers defeated the Oakland Raiders, 13-7, with Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” in the final minute. Despite a 21-17 loss the following week to the undefeated Miami Dolphins, the Steelers had reached a new plateau.

It took 40 years for the Steelers to finally win their first division title, but over the next decade they achieved a level of success unprecedented in professional football.

In 1973 the Steelers won a wild card playoff berth with a 10-4 record. Oakland avenged their loss from the previous year, however, with a 33-14 defeat of the Steelers in the playoffs.

The Steelers won their first of six consecutive AFC Central titles in 1974 and marched past Buffalo (32-14) and Oakland (24-13) en route to their first Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl IX. The fierce Pittsburgh defense led the way to a 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, and Art Rooney was presented the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time.

In 1975 the Steelers won 11 straight games to finish 12-2 and claim their second consecutive division crown. After defeating Baltimore (28-10) and Oakland (16-10) in the playoffs, the Steelers became the third team in NFL history, joining Green Bay and Miami, to win back-to-back Super Bowls with a 21-17 defeat of the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X.

The 1976 Steelers struggled to a 1-4 start before reeling off nine straight victories, including five shutouts, to win the division with a 10-4 mark. They defeated Baltimore 40-14 in the playoffs, but lost to Oakland, 24-7, after both starting running backs, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, were injured. The following year the Steelers dropped a 34-21 decision to Denver in the first round of the playoffs after posting a 9-5 regular-season record.

In 1978 the Steelers made history after a league-best 14-2 regular season and playoff wins versus Denver (33-10) and Houston (34-5). Their 35-31 Super Bowl XIII win versus Dallas made the Steelers the first team to win three Super Bowls.

Yet another standard was set the following year when the 1979 Steelers defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 31-19, in Super Bowl XIV to make them the first team in history to win four Super Bowls and the only team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice. The Super Bowl victory followed a 12-4 regular season and playoff wins versus Miami (34-14) and Houston (27-13). With six consecutive AFC Central crowns, eight straight years of playoff appearances and four Super Bowl championships, the Steelers were tagged the “Team of the Decade” for the 1970s.

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