THE PLAYOFFS BEGAN IN PI TTSBURGH on Sunday, December 23,
1974, when the Steelers played host to O. J. Simpson and the Buffa-
lo Bills. Simpson was a year past his electrifying 2,003-yard season.
But he was still the engine of the Bills’ run-dominated offense.
What Pittsburgh unveiled on the day was a slight wrinkle that
would play an increasingly large role as the playoffs wore on. It was
a variation on the 4–3 defense which the team called the “Stunt
4–3,” an alignment in which Joe Greene took a different stance,
cocked diagonally on the nose of the center from his left tackle
position. In the geometric jujitsu of line play, a force like Greene
at that point in the line play could wreak havoc. Ernie Holmes was
lined up shaded inside the other guard. If the Bills’ center moved
to block Holmes, Greene had a clear path to the quarterback. If
the center double-teamed Greene with the right guard, Holmes
was in perfect position to demolish the play. Simpson was held to
49 yards rushing. “It started out as a pass technique,” Chuck later
explained, “but we found it really screws up the offensive blocking.
It’s an aggressive defensive play because our front four isn’t sitting
Pittsburgh scored 26 points in the second quarter en route to
and reading the offense. Instead, they’re the ones making things
From one perspective, installing a new base defensive
alignment at the start of the playoffs was folly. But then, so was
changing your starting quarterback three times during the regular
season. It was that kind of season.
a 32–14 win. It was Bradshaw’s best performance of the season
( 12 of 19 passing for 203 yards and no interceptions, plus 48 yards
rushing on 5 carries).
With the Raiders knocking off the two-time defending cham-
pion Dolphins the day before, Pittsburgh would go on the road,
back to Oakland, for the 1974 AFC title game.
“We’re happy to have the opportunity to play them again,”
said Chuck. He also announced that the team wouldn’t spend the
week in Palm Springs, as they had before the playoff game in 1973.
Bradshaw, for one, was happy: “It’s too warm out there,” he said.
“We get too soft.”
By Monday morning, Chuck was well aware of Raider coach
John Madden’s quote, amid the postgame jubilation after Oakland
knocked off the two-time defending champion Dolphins, “When
talks, but the assumption grated. He said nothing to his assistant