Ranking the Six Steelers Super Bowl Teams

In doing research for my book – “100 Things Every Steelers Fan Should Know and Do Before They Die,” I became very in tune with those glory teams of the past. You remember, the ones that won four Super Bowls in six seasons and was known to all as the “team of the 70’s”? So with that, I am going to take some time today to write on a subject near and dear to all Steeler fans hearts – our Six Super Bowl title teams.

I am going to rank the teams, from best to worst, and do a little write up on the offense and defense and why I have the six title teams ranked where I do. So here goes nothing.

Super Bowl IX Team – 1974 Season: The Steelers first title, and it came after they slowly knocked on the door with losses in two AFC Title Games the two seasons prior. The team reached the title game mostly due to the defense, and their run game also paved the way with the emergence of Franco Harris. They topped the Vikings 16-6 on January 12th for the franchises first championship.

Offense: the team was in turmoil to start the year, as Joe Gilliam was the starter at QB, while Chuck Noll decided to sit Terry Bradshaw, who to that point of his career wasn’t playing all that well. Gilliam got the team to a 4-1-1 start, but was replaced after throwing for just 66 yards vs Cleveland on October 20th. Noll went back to Bradshaw, and while he wasn’t great, he got the team to go 6-2 the remaining 8 games, and then 3-0 in the postseason. The 26-year-old former #1 pick threw for 785 yards, 7 TD’s and 8 interceptions. The run game was led by Franco Harris, who ran for 1006 yards and five scores. Rocky Bleier rushed for 373 and two scores. The leading wide out was Frank Lewis, who had 30 grabs for 365 yards and four scores. The offense was at its best in the playoffs, scoring 32, 24 and 16 points in the three wins.

Defense: A solid unit that was led by the up and coming “Steel Curtain.” Joe Greene was the leader, but Jack Lambert had a great rookie year coming into his own and was the leagues defensive rookie of the year. Add L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Andy Russell and a good secondary led by J.T. Thomas who tied Ham with five picks, and you can see why many credit the defense with this title win. The defense had 25 interceptions and 35 fumble recoveries, and it was their play in the AFC Title game holding the Raiders in check and the Super Bowl shutting out the Vikings (their only TD came on a blocked punt) that was the difference.

Super Bowl X Team – 1975 Season: The team steamrolled through the regular season, having just two hiccups in going 12-2 and again having a successful postseason. The offense again had a strong run game, but were helped out by the strong Super Bowl by Lynn Swann, who was the MVP of the game. The team had a great balance, scoring 30 points or more 7 times, and holding teams to 10 or less points 7 times as well.

Offense: Bradshaw was finally coming into his own in 75, throwing for 2055 yards, 18 touchdowns and 9 picks. He was helped out by the addition of Swann (781 yards and 11 scores) and John Stallworth, who had 423 yards with four TD’s. The run game again was led by Franco Harris, who had 1246 yards and 10 touchdowns. The offense was very good throughout the season, with a maturing Bradshaw and a run game that not many could stop.

Defense: This was the season where the “Steel Curtain” was very much a big part of what the Steelers were all about. They dominated games, with holding teams to 10 points or less 7 times. They had 27 picks, and 21 fumble recoveries. Joe Greene again was dominant, and Mel Blount as an All-Pro had 11 picks. The other members of the front four were solid as well, with Dwight White, L.C. Greenwood and Ernie Holmes all getting to the QB and stopping the run games of opposing teams. This was the season the defense made headlines almost every week.

Super Bowl XIII Team – 1978 Season: Playing great on both sides, the Steelers again ran through the NFL with 14 regular season wins, and then scored 102 points in three postseason games, including 35 in the Super Bowl XIII win over the Cowboys in winning 35-31. It was evident by halfway though the season that the Steelers were the best team not only in the AFC, but the NFL.

Offense: The team was as dangerous as ever, with Bradshaw throwing for at the time a team record 28 touchdowns and 20 picks to go along with 2915 yards. Swann and Stallworth were the best 1-2 punch in the league as far as WR’s were concerned, as they combined for over 1600 yards and 20 touchdowns. The run game saw Franco Harris go for 1082 yards and 8 scores, while Rocky Bleier ran for 633 yards and five touchdowns. Everyone on offense seemed to play big when the team needed it the most.

Defense: The unit played takeaway as well as any in football, getting 63 turnovers, 27 picks and 36 fumble recoveries. The Curtain was as good as ever, with Green, Greenwood, Holmes and White dominating games again, holding teams to single digits in points in 7 games, including allowing just five to Houston in the AFC Title game in Pittsburgh. A great piece of trivia – the player that led the Steelers in interceptions with six in 1978 – a little known player named Tony Dungy.

Super Bowl XIV Team – 1979 Season: The end of an era saw the Steelers go 12-4 in the regular season, then get past the Dolphins and Oilers, and then after trailing 19-16 in the fourth quarter they outscored the Rams 14-0 to win Super Bowl XIV 31-19. Bradshaw was the SB MVP again, and the defense was led by the aging Steel Curtain one more time.

Offense: Bradshaw led the offense with a pass game that saw him throw for 3655 yards with 26 touchdowns. Issue was he also threw 26 picks, including a stunning five in a 35-7 loss in November to the Chargers. He played like Brett Favre, a gunslinger that drove Chuck Noll crazy at times with the interceptions. Stallworth finally earned the role as the teams #1 WR, catching 1183 yards worth of passes with 8 touchdowns. Swann had five TD’s as well. Harris ran for 1186 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Defense: The Curtain was getting older, and it showed as teams scored 30 or more points four times during the season. They did though still have fight left in them, as they had a stretch during a four-game win streak where they allowed a total of 20 points. Bradshaw’s picks put them in bad positions at points, and there were too many big plays throughout the season for Noll’s liking.

Super Bowl XL Team – 2005 Season: No one could have ever thought that at 7-5 the Steelers would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy some two plus months later. They were led by the emotion of their defense, a QB that overcame a knee injury, and Jerome Bettis, who was playing the final games of his Hall of Fame career. It also remains the only Super Bowl title for coach Bill Cowher.

Offense: In his second season, Ben Roethlisberger was a better QB, but an injury derailed him part of the way through the season, and the team almost never got back into the playoff hunt at 7-5, losers of three in a row to the Colts, Ravens and Bengals. The run game was led by a young guy no one knew much about – Willie Parker. He had a huge first couple of games, and ended up being the best back on the roster along with Bettis and Deuce Staley, who both had injuries. Hines Ward and rookie TE Heath Miller both had good seasons, along with Antwaan Randel-El.

Defense: The “D” was stingy as usual, holding teams to 16.1 points per game, third in the league. They showed how good they could be in the four game stretch to end the year, when they held teams to 9, 3, and 0 in wins over the Bears, Vikings and Browns. Joey Porter had 10.5 sacks, and Clark Haggans had 9 sacks. The secondary was led by Chris Hope and Troy Polamalu, and it was the play of #43 that led the team into the postseason. A defense that never got the credit it deserved.

Super Bowl XLIII Team – 2008 Season: Mike Tomlin’s crew ran through the toughest schedule in the regular season, winning 12 of 16 games. Ben Roethlisberger again played at a high level, and the defense was the best in the league, with James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodely playing lights out all season. They stayed humble, grounded, and never lost sight of the prize. They beat the Ravens three times, something that paved the way for a win in Tampa over the Cardinals 27-23.

Offense: Roethlisberger threw for 3300 yards, 17 TD’s and 15 picks. He had a better year in 2007, but the team lost in the first round to the Jaguars. This time around, they were healthier, had a better ground game with Parker and Mewelde Moore, and Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington all made some big plays throughout the season. The issues had a lot to do with an O-line that allowed 49 sacks during the season.

Defense: Tomlin told the crew before the final drive vs the Cardinals that a win and it would go down as a “legendary defense,” and it was. Harrison was the player of the year, while Polamalu and Woodley were both studs all season. The linebackers never stopped pressuring the QB and stopping the run, and the secondary was good enough to get the job done. If the 2010 team wins the bowl, many will compare the unit of 08 to 10, and I still give a slight nod to the 08 team.

Now, for my rankings:

1. Super Bowl X Team – 1975 Season
2. Super Bowl XIII Team – 1978 Season
3. Super Bowl XLIII Team – 2008 Season
4. Super Bowl XIV Team – 1979 Season
5. Super Bowl IX Team – 1974 Season
6. Super Bowl XL Team – 2005 Season

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