goal attempts, but the elfin Gerela pulled one field goal wide, and
then Walden, his holder, bobbled the snap on another attempt.
When Fran Tarkenton mishandled a handoff to the Vikings Dave
Osborn, the ball squirted free, was accidentally kicked back toward
the end zone, where the Vikings’ quarterback scrambled on top of
it, just in time to be touched down for a safety.
In the final two minutes of the half, Pittsburgh leading 2–0,
Edwards’ pregame words would prove prophetic. The Vikings
were driving, nearing the end zone, when Tarkenton threw to John
Gilliam, coming across the middle. Edwards hit Gilliam high with
a nasty shot — a pair of forearms to Gilliam’s facemask — sending the Vikings’ receiver backward and the football squirting back
into the air, where Blount made the interception. The teams got to
halftime with the score still 2–0.
Bradshaw was unabashed at halftime. “We’re whipping their
asses off and still ain’t got but two points!” he said. Mansfield
allowed that two points just might be enough. Chuck spoke to
Bradshaw about finding tight end Larry Brown more often.
The second half began with more special teams calamities,
Gerela slipping on the wet turf during the kickoff, which squibbed
in and out of the hands of the Vikings fullback Bill Brown, before
the Steelers’ Marv Kellum recovered. Harris’s outside run to the
left, behind a stellar block from pulling right guard Gerry Mullins,
put the Steelers up 9–0.
The Vikings were completely toothless, their vanilla offensive
schemes easily stifled by the defense. Russell had studied their ten-
dencies so well — and could see that they were stubbornly sticking
with them — that he would yell up to Holmes and White, “Hey, it’s
gonna be 17 straight! Play it . . . left hand, left shoulder, Fats.”
That’s where the score stayed until another special teams mis-
cue, Minnesota’s Matt Blair breaking free to block Walden’s punt,
resulting in the Vikings’ Terry Brown recovering in the end zone
to make the score 9–6 (though the Vikings then failed to convert
the extra point). With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and the
entire season on the line, the ball was in the hands of the Steelers
and Terry Bradshaw.
He’d grown a bristly playoff beard, and the facial hair gave him
an aspect of maturity. Five years of playing under Chuck had given
him a toughness; if he was not quite assured, he possessed a deeper
understanding of his role. Now, he expertly mixed the runs to Harris and Bleier with key passes — including third-down throws to
Larry Brown for 30 yards and a 6-yard toss to Bleier on third and
five. On third and goal from the 4, the Steelers called time out. A
touchdown would nearly seal the game. Being held to a field goal
would leave Pittsburgh vulnerable to a late Vikings drive.
On the sidelines, Bradshaw deferred to his coach. “What do
you want to run?” he asked.
“Goal line three thirty-three,” said Chuck. It was a run-pass
option, meant to give Bradshaw time to make his decision and
punish the Vikings if they bunched up for another inside run.
Chuck watched quietly as Bradshaw returned to the field, called
the play, rolled out to elude the rush, and found Larry Brown open
in the end zone. The pass was sharp and accurate and gave the
seemed insurmountable. Wagner intercepted Fran Tarkenton on
the Vikings’ next play, and the celebration on the sidelines soon
Joe Greene had dominated the game, made an interception and
Then came the congratulations, the press interviews, the return
recovered a fumble, but Franco Harris won the MVP for his then-
record 158 rushing yards. Now Greene and Harris lifted Chuck up
in their arms — not quite to their shoulders — and carried him off
the field. Roy Blount Jr. had returned to spend time with the Steel-
ers for the game and later wrote about “the winning smile on Noll’s
face. I had never seen Noll’s mouth so wide open. It was as though
the Dragon Lady had gone all soft around the eyes and said, ‘Oh,
In the commotion of the locker room after the game, the team
and the commissioner celebrated Art Rooney, as the Chief — his
ever-present cigar lodged firmly in his jaw — accepted the Super
Bowl trophy. Chuck mostly stayed out of camera range. “Chuck
never wanted to be in the front row,” said Jack Ham.
to the hotel room, and the handshake with Marianne.
All through the scenes of celebration, Chuck’s smile was
season remain unprecedented. There have been a scattered few
genuine. Only the words were forced. Even that night, at the Steel-
ers’ victory party, he was still not able to articulate the emotional
weight of the accomplishment. “I remember going into his room
that night,” said Andy Russell. “I don’t know if a number of us
decided to congratulate him. And he was like, ‘Okay, guys. This is
why we work. This is why we pay the price, blah, blah, blah.’ He
wasn’t one of those guys who was gonna run around the hallways,
“It was one of my early lessons,” said Chris Noll. “My father
liked a good party, a small one, at home. But Super Bowls, he was
always kind of . . . he cares about the doing and once the doing is
over it is a huge letdown. Even though you won.”
Chuck wasn’t totally oblivious to the emotion. Of the last drive,
he said of his team, “You could see it in their eyes; we were going
to be number one.”
On NBC’s Super Bowl postgame broadcast, Curt Gowdy was
attempting to put the win in perspective. “They’re still a very
young team,” said Gowdy. “I would say their best years are still
ahead of them. A team that may not have reached its peak, and
their future opponents are going to have some trouble.”
With several decades of hindsight, the chaotic circumstances in which the Steelers won the Super Bowl in the 1974
instances in which a future Super Bowl champ changed quarter-
backs during the season (Washington in 1987; Baltimore in 2000).
For the state of constant flux, the closest analog may have been the
1969 Kansas City Chiefs, who began the year with Len Dawson,
replaced him with Jacky Lee when he was injured, replaced him
with Mike Livingston when Lee was injured, then went back to
Dawson — then Livingston again after Dawson was re-injured
— then back to Dawson for the end of the regular season and