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JT Thomas: 'That game was won in the tunnel'

*During the weekend of Nov. 29-30, the Steelers will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Super Bowl IX in conjunction with their game against the New Orleans Saints at Heinz Field. In Super Bowl IX, which was played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, the Steelers won the first championship in franchise history by defeating the Minnesota Vikings, 16-6. Throughout this week, will be focusing on that championship team.

*It was their first time in a game of this magnitude, and from top to bottom Steelers players were on edge. And could you blame them? After seeing the Steelers lose for years, they didn't want to let this opportunity slip away.

As they stood in the tunnel at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans awaiting player introductions before the game, it would be safety Glen Edwards, who would calm their fears. Edwards didn't like it when he tried to speak to one of the Vikings and got no response. So as many of his former teammates recalled, he let them know in his own words to 'buckle up' because the Steelers were coming.

"Initially we were terrified," said cornerback J.T. Thomas. "We were in the tunnel prior to the game and the Vikings were on one side of the tunnel, we were the other. We were intimidated. These were our heroes. They had these beards and looked like real Vikings to us. We had a 12th man with us in that tunnel and it was fear, until Glen Edwards broke the ice in the tunnel.

"That game was won in the tunnel. He bellowed out some words, not words of encouragement. Everybody looked at him and the look went from fear to the game is over. You saw a vibration go from Joe (Greene) to (Jack) Lambert to Dwight (White) where we went crazy. It was on in the tunnel. We knew the game was over in the tunnel."

What They Said:

-- Mike Wagner on the 1974 season: "It was more than magical. For the Steelers it was probably one of the best football years ever."

-- Rocky Bleier on not getting free agency after the 1974 season began with a player strike fighting for it: "I am grateful we didn't have free agency. We have 22 guys that were there for all four Super Bowls. That would not happen today. You'll never be able to spend the memories and the success that you have."

-- J.T. Thomas on the camaraderie: "It was fun because we had this common unity. The union and bond that was created that you don't get in most organization, where players come together in harmony. That feeling is hard to describe."


Photos of Super Bowl IX. The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 to capture the team's first Super Bowl victory in New Orleans' Tulane Stadium.

-- Randy Grossman on the veteran rookies looked to for leadership**: "Number one, and he will always be number one, was Joe Greene. That was one of the strengths with that group, nobody had to stand up and give speeches about motivation. Everybody showed their leadership by their play on the field and interaction with everybody else."

-- Bleier on the 1974 draft class that included four future Hall of Famers (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster): "It's a class that had four Hall of Famers. That has never happened before. You look at what made it special. What made it special was the people they drafted and finding the people that fit into the Steelers organization. You look at that character and commitment in those rookies that made it in that time. They were quality people, overachievers that had great talent and made themselves superstars because of it."

-- Grossman on the 1974 rookie class he was a part of as a free agent: "It was a startling group of athletes and individuals. It was the final brick that took the team over the top and created probably one of the greatest sports teams over a 10-year period that there ever was. It's indisputable that it was the greatest rookie class for a team ever, given the Hall of Famers and the additional players that came through." 

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