particularly lethal as it matched up Greene and Holmes on Oakland’s aging, bruised, undersized veteran center Jim Otto. After the
first series — which Greene concluded by beating a double-team
block to sack Ken Stabler — the Raiders’ offensive line was on the
sidelines with a chalkboard, trying to draw up a suitable response.
It never came; the Raiders ran for just 29 yards on the day.
Oakland went ahead in the third quarter, when Cliff Branch
beat Mel Blount on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Stabler. The
Steelers still trailed 10–3 heading into the fourth quarter, when
Harris ran for the game-tying touchdown. From there, the Steelers
took over. Two interceptions in the fourth quarter — one by Ham
and another by J. T. Thomas — helped put the game away, and
Pittsburgh won, 24–13.
“They beat our butts,” said Madden after the game.
The reception at the Pittsburgh International Airport was un-
precedented and chaotic, even for the Steelers faithful. As the plane
touched down, at 12: 56 a.m., more than 10,000 Steelers supporters
had crowded into the terminal to greet the team.
The challenge awaiting Chuck the next morning was what, if anything, he wanted to do differently than the Colts had done
after the 1968 season. When the team gathered Tuesday, he did not
tell any cautionary tales about Super Bowl III or the nightmare of
recriminations that followed it. But he did warn his players to not
invest the game with more importance than it already carried. It
was another football game, and the Steelers would treat it as such.
When the Steelers flew to chilly New Orleans on Sunday a
week before the game, Chuck brought the players into a banquet
room at the Fontainebleu Hotel.
“So the meeting goes, ‘Here is the schedule for the week,’” said
Bleier. “There is no curfew tonight or tomorrow night, and Tues-
day is media day. We will go to our normal week’s practice as we
have done all season long, then we will have Wednesday offense,
Thursday defense, combination on Friday as we have done. Noth-
ing will be different. This game isn’t any more important than last
week’s game or the game before that. It is just another game.’”
The team reveled in the lack of a curfew that Sunday and
Monday night — Andy Russell somehow managed to lose a rental
car somewhere in Fat City. Joe Greene didn’t even unpack, just
dropped his luggage in the room and headed out with his line
mates, L. C. Greenwood, Dwight White, and Fats Holmes. They
wound up sitting by the sidewalk in an open-air restaurant along
Bourbon Street. “We had you-peel-it shrimp,” said Greene. “And
we drank Heineken until they had no more.” The night left Dwight
White with a case of food poisoning and, eventually, admitted to
the hospital with pneumonia, which seemed certain to rule him
out of the game. Everyone but White reported for meetings Tues-
day morning and prepared as usual.
There was a sense that freedom on the first nights in New Or-
leans, along with the innate confidence that the team had gained,
left them looser for the game itself. That week, Radakovich showed
the offensive line old game footage of him playing for Penn State
against Jim Brown and Syracuse in the ’50s. Chuck even allowed
the players’ wives to stay with them the night before the game.
On the eve of the Super Bowl, Chuck and Marianne and Dan
and Pat Rooney dined at a Mexican restaurant in the French
Quarter. That Saturday-night meal was marked by an impassioned
conversation, Chuck evincing annoyance with all the league-man-dated activities that took him, the staff, and the Steelers out of their
weekly routines. “Chuck and I got into this big discussion, ‘What’s
more important: the package or the product?’” said Pat Rooney.
“The league handled everything. You didn’t have much say about
it. But you know, just back and forth.”
Bud Grant’s Vikings had been mauled twice — in Super Bowl IV against Kansas City and in Super Bowl VIII against Miami
— but they returned to New Orleans intent on running the football against as formidable a defense as they’d ever faced.
It poured down rain in the gray New Orleans morning, and
the wind chill made it feel like it was in the low 20s. Prior to the
game, equipment manager Tony Parisi was fitting the players for
new shoes that he’d gotten from Canada, with spiral cleats. When
Dwight White barged into the door of the locker room, his Steelers
teammates let out a rousing cheer. He’d lost nearly 20 pounds in
the hospital, but he was determined to play.
The players weren’t expecting a rousing speech from their
coach, and they didn’t get one. “Play the way you’ve been coached,”
Chuck said. “You’re going to have a good time.” After the buildup
and the preparation, he had the team’s attention and could have
said more. But there was nothing left to say, so he turned and the
Steelers headed out for the field.
In the tunnel, before pregame introductions — starters on the
Vikings offense and the Steelers defense were being introduced
individually — Glen Edwards spied his old Florida A&M team-
mate, Vikings’ tackle Charles Goodrum, and shouted a greeting.
Goodrum looked nervously over to Edwards and didn’t respond.
Finally Edwards went over to slap hands and wish Goodrum good
luck. But Vikings coach Bud Grant had forbade his players to even
speak to the Steelers. Agitated and emboldened, Edwards said,
loud enough for everyone in the tunnel to hear, “Okay, I’ll tell you
what. Y’all better strap it on, m--------------, ’cause you’re about to
get your asses whipped!” Once again, the Steelers’ defense would
deliver on a guarantee from a member of their defense.
The Vikings had gained 164 yards on the ground against the Rams in the NFC Championship Game, and they’d seen the
film of the Steelers using the Stunt 4–3 against Oakland. But as in
the earlier Super Bowls, they never adapted. Aging center Mick
Tinglehoff was overmatched against Greene to begin with, but he
had no chance with Greene tilted at an angle, knifing forward at
the snap. “The way [Greene] played, he basically charged into the
‘V’ in the neck of the center in such manner so the center could
not reach him if it was a strong-side play,” said Bud Carson. “If you
weren’t prepared for it, it made the guard totally ineffective.”
The first half had a stultifying feel, to match the cold. The
Steelers drove across the 50 twice, close enough for two field-