1980 Steelers 31 vs Oilers 17
The World Champions come out guns blazing from the opening kick, scoring just 3 plays into the game and jumping out to a 17-0 lead courtesy of three 1st quarter Ken Stabler interceptions (2 by Mel Blount). Bradshaw is on fire early and Swann & Stallworth each make some incredible, acrobatic catches (including a Swann TD that is incorrectly ruled out of bounds, although I'm sure the Oilers felt a little justice was served after the Renfro no-catch ruling in the '79 AFC Championship). The gritty Oilers fight back, however, scoring 17 points in 4-1/2 minutes via the trickery of a 57-yard bomb from Earl Campbell (yes, Earl Cambell) to Billy "White Shoes" Johnson and a Steelers fumble of a kickoff to tie the game in the 3rd period. But the Steelers reassert themselves in the 4th, taking the lead back on a Bradshaw QB draw and then icing it on Stallworth's unbelievable catch of Bradshaw's scrambling, improvisational 50-yard sandlot bomb.
1980 Steelers 20 at Colts 17
The rocket arms of Terry Bradshaw and Bert Jones fill the air with footballs in a thriller. In spite of Pittsburgh's 3-to-1 dominance in time of possession while piling up nearly 300 yards of offense by halftime, the Colts take a 7-6 lead when an ill-advised Bradshaw pass turns into a pick-6. Ever resilient, Bradshaw engineers a masterful 11-play, 87-yard drive just before the half (keyed by long passes to Harris & Stallworth) to regain the lead 13-7 on a TD pass to Franco. The Colts come out fired up in the 2nd half led by Roger Carr (6 catches, 108 yards) and aided by three personal foul calls on Pittsburgh (including one on Mean Joe for kicking up the infield dirt) to take a 17-13 lead into the 4th quarter. Bradshaw beats a blitz with an absolutely perfect touch pass to Jim Smith to put Pittsburgh back on top 20-17, but with less than a minute to go, Baltimore drives all the way to the Steeler 3 before Donnie Shell jumps the route and comes up with a beautiful interception at the goal line to preserve a Steeler victory.
1980 Steelers 28 at Bengals 30
The Steelers start miserably, turning the ball over on 3 consecutive plays including an INT return for a TD to give Cinci an easy 10-0 lead. But Bradshaw soon begins to dissect the Bengals secondary, hitting Smith for a 45 yard TD and Swannie for TD's of 8 and 68 yards. Again turnovers plague the Steelers as a muffed punt leads to a Cinci TD and finally, Pollard's fumble of a kickoff in the final minutes of the game leads to the winning FG for Cinci. Bradshaw moves the Steelers into position for a 51 yard FG attempt on the final play, but Bahr's kick sails wide. This game marked the beginning of the end of the Steelers dynasty, as injuries to numerous key players would prove to be too much to overcome.
1980 Steelers 38 vs Bears 3
Roger Staubach provides the color commentary for this game and it's easy to understand why this career move didn't last long. "Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?" LOL. This matchup features a fantastic 4-TD performance by Terry Bradshaw plus hat tricks by Jim Smith (3 TD) and Mike Wagner (3 Int)! This is a pretty brutal butt-kicking, folks. Aside from their opening drive, Chicago never really threatens to score again and the Steelers (who are already injury-plagued this early in the season) just pour it on. Even Cliff Stoudt, who sees his first regular season action in this game, throws a TD pass. The great Walter Payton gates off to a strong start (32 yards on his first 4 carries), but he's soon facing a 24-0 deficit and never has a chance to showcase his talent. Meanwhile, Mike Phipps shows why he washed out in Cleveland before being knocked out and replaced by Vince Evans, who throws 3 interceptions in 7 attempts.
1980 Steelers 23 at Vikings 17
As injuries continue to mount, this is really the last game of 1980 where the Steelers still look like champions. Bradshaw, in spite of wearing a bulletproof vest to protect his bruised ribs, has a magnificent first half. There's a Bradshaw pass early in the game that is simply phenomenal. Terry -- who's less than 100% to begin with -- is backpedaling, has no way to plant his feet, is surrounded by purple shirts and literally has a defender hanging on him. Yet with just raw arm strength, he rifles a perfect pass 25 yards downfield to Swann (6 catches, 107 yds) to convert a crucial 3rd down. The Steelers take a commanding 23-7 lead into the 4th quarter after Bradshaw scampers into the end zone on a broken play. But suddenly, the Vikings -- who could previously do nothing right -- storm back. After a quick TD, the Vikes recover a surprise onside kick and score another quick TD to close the score to 23-17. The Steelers then fail to seal the deal in spite of multiple opportunities and the Vikes somehow find themselves in position to potentially take the lead as time winds down. Fortunately, the Steelers finally snap out of their 4th quarter funk and Donnie Shell snags his 2nd interception of the game at the Steeler 10 to preserve the win. Video includes halftime show with league highlights and some nice postgame.
1980 Steelers 16 vs Bengals 17
Bradshaw is the punter in this one, nailing several 40+ yard kicks. Place kicker Matt Bahr, however, does not fare so well, missing a crucial PAT and 2 FGs, the last one devastating. With Swann & Stallworth out of the lineup, the Steelers are out of sync early, fumbling on their 1st 2 plays. Add an awful Bradshaw pick and it's suddenly 17-0, Cinci. But the Steelers explode in the 2nd half, using a Blount Int & a TD to Swann to close the gap to 13-17 before Cinci can even blink. Another FG late in 3rd makes it 16-17, and Bradshaw leads a masterful 2-minute drill to the Bengal 20 in the final moments, only to have Bahr miss on an AWFUL kick, giving Cinci their 1st-ever win at Three Rivers. Edited huddles.
1980 Steelers 34 vs Raiders 45 MNF
With the absence of Swann, Stallworth, Franco and Lambert, the game rests squarely on the shoulders of Bradshaw, who is extremely sharp in spite of being pounded all night and having to leave the game with injuries 3 separate times. Pittsburgh dominates statistically and jumps out to a 17-7 lead, but turnovers, a slew of penalties and some horrendous defensive breakdowns cost the Steelers a game they should've won. Plunkett beats Pittsburgh's blitzes repeatedly with deep bombs to Cliff Branch. Backup WRs Jim Smith (6 rec., 106 yds, 2 TD) and Theo Bell (5 rec., 114 yds, 1 TD) each have career games but it's not enough. When Bradshaw finally gets knocked out of the game for good in the 4th quarter, the wheels come off and the surging Raiders put the game away.
1980 Steelers 26 at Browns 27
Injuries once again kill the Steelers. Pittsburgh nearly pulls it off without Bradshaw, Swann, Stallworth, Franco, and Lambert in the lineup. Cliff Stoudt fills in surprisingly well, but a late back breaking interception combined with a brilliant comeback effort by Brian Sipe are simply too much for the ailing Steelers. This was the third consecutive game the Steelers lost in which they outplayed their opponent. Oh, those damn injuries!
1980 Steelers 22 vs Packers 20
Bradshaw vs. Bart Starr! Well, sort of... Starr IS head coach of the Pack. Green Bay's horrible long snapper proves to be the difference in an ugly, ugly game. One snap sails over the punter's head & out of the endzone for a safety, and another high snap sets up a Steeler TD from the Packer 24. This game may very well showcase the worst first half of football I've ever seen, on both teams... I'm telling you, it's laughable. The injury-depleted Steeler offense continues to sputter after halftime but -- largely due to the efforts of Rocky Bleier -- are able to control the ball for most of the 2nd half and manage to escape with a win.
1980 Steelers 24 at Bucs 21
With their offense weakened by the absence of Franco and nagging injuries to Bradshaw & a host of other Steeler starters, Pittsburgh needs a big game from their defense & special teams to win. They get it. Ham & Shell force an early fumble to set up a FG. Dirt Winston pounces on a blocked punt in the endzone for the Steelers' 1st TD. Ham & Lambert team up to force a Ricky Bell fumble, and with the Bucs threatening at the Steeler 25 late in the game, Joe Greene tips a Doug Williams pass & Donnie Shell makes a great leaping INT at the 10 to save the game. Seriously edited huddles.
1980 Steelers 16 vs Browns 13
Another incredibly emotional game between these two arch rivals comes down to the wire! Of all of my Browns/Steelers games, this one is probably my favorite ever... I still get goose bumps watching the wild finish. Bradshaw and Harris struggle throughout the game, but Lynn Swann is utterly magnificent, carrying the team with 10 clutch catches. Trailing 13-9 in the final moments of the game, the Steelers seem doomed when, after driving inside the Browns 5, Jim Smith flat out drops an easy TD pass and the Steelers turn the ball over on downs. Game over, right? Wrong... remember, this was the era of "the Three Rivers Jinx." The Browns make a fatal error when they try to pass from their own endzone on 3rd down, preserving just enough crucial time for Bradshaw & Swann to maneuver the ball back to the 3-yard line, where Bradshaw hits Swannie for the game-winner with just 8 seconds left! Features a brawl on the way to the locker room at halftime!
1980 Steelers 13 at Bills 28
This was an incredibly shocking loss to me as a kid. Fresh off a HUGE win over Cleveland, I fully expected the Steelers to absolutely take apart the Buffalo Bills, in spite of the fact that the Bills came into the game with an impressive 8-3 record. It was Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo, after all! Instead, the Bills run roughshod over the depleted Steelers by piling up 178 rushing yards (110 for Joe Cribbs on 24 carries) and totally dominating the second half. The loss drops the Steelers to 7-5, and worst of all, puts them a game behind the Oilers and Browns with a monster matchup in Houston looming on the horizon.
1980 Steelers 23 vs Dolphins 10
Lambert sets the tone early with a wicked forced fumble which Blount scoops up and returns to the Miami 18. Unfortunately, the Steelers must settle for a FG after a crazy "Tarkenton-esque" scramble by Bradshaw results in an absolutely perfect TD pass to Bleier... which Rocky drops. Shortly thereafter, Dirt Winston recovers a fumbled punt and Bradshaw immediately threads the needle with a perfect 30 yard TD strike to Swann (in double coverage). With Swann facing constant double coverage, Theo Bell has a career day (4 rec, 173 yds) and Franco dances for 116 rushing yards as the Steelers open up a 16-3 lead. A Franco fumble inside the 10 keeps the Steelers from icing the game and the Dolphins fight back and actually threaten to take a 4th quarter lead. But a vicious shot by Ron Johnson pops the ball out at the 1-yard line, the Steelers recover and Bradshaw engineers a 15-play, 99-yard TD drive seal the game and keep Pittsburgh's playoff hopes alive. A huge thanks to "SteelBuck 6" for generously providing us with this classic game!
1980 Steelers 0 at Oilers 6
This game was every bit as frustrating to watch as an adult as it was when I was a kid. Five critical turnovers seal Pittsburgh's fate in spite of an inspired performance by the aging Steel Curtain. While "mathematically" still alive for a playoff berth, this loss was really the final nail in the coffin for Pittsburgh, putting an end to not only their season, but also their dynasty. With consistently terrible field position (of seven first half possessions, only one is beyond the Steelers' own 20 yard line at the 21), a patchwork offensive line, the absence of Stallworth and Smith and Swann playing with 2 cracked ribs, Pittsburgh just never gets it going offensively. Three bad interceptions, two Franco fumbles and lousy kicking by Matt Bahr result in the first shutout of the Steelers in 102 games. Meanwhile, Dave Casper is incredible for the Oilers.
1980 Steelers 21 vs Chiefs 16
FAREWELL TO ROCKY! How fitting that in the final game of Bleier's career, "the Rock" scores the game-winning TD! The Steelers start strong, driving right down the field and capping the drive with a Bradshaw to Swann TD pass. But three Bradshaw turnovers (a pair of INTs and a fumble) repeatedly set KC's floundering offense up with outstanding field position and allow easy points. Thankfully, the Steel Curtain forces FGs instead of TDs on most of these possessions and the Steelers are able to stay within striking distance. Trailing 16-7 after 3 quarters in near-blizzard conditions in an UGLY game, the Steelers hang tough and their offense finally wakes up in the 4th quarter, scoring 2 TDs late in the contest to prevent the upset. Rocky Bleier's hard-hitting 11-yard TD burst up the middle puts Pittsburgh back in front, but the Chiefs drive deep into Steeler territory until Jack Ham's interception at the Steeler 18 seals it with 11 seconds left. This is also the final game for Mike Wagner, Dwight White (RIP) and Steve Furness (RIP).
1980 Steelers 17 at Chargers 26
For the first time since 1971, the Steelers enter a regular season finale playing only for pride. The Chargers, on the other hand, are fighting for their playoff lives. Win, you're in; lose, you're out. With everything on the line for San Diego, Kellen Winslow is absolutely devastating (10 catches, 171 yds). I realized watching this game that I'm unsure of what the motion rules were in those days because San Diego constantly has two men in motion at the same time with Winslow switching sides with whatever receiver is opposite him in the slot in an effort to confuse the Steelers' coverages. It's like a Chinese fire drill. The tactic works so well that Pittsburgh soon moves Mel Blount over to cover Winslow exclusively in an effort to slow down the Hall of Fame TE. It doesn't work, and Winslow continues to victimize the Steelers for catch after devastating catch. With Stallworth and Smith out and Swann facing constant double and even triple coverage, Theo Bell (5 rec, 127 yds) has a career night. A special thanks to Russell "SteelBuck 6" for generously providing us with this classic game.