1981 Steelers 33 vs Chiefs 37
7 Pittsburgh turnovers, 9 fumbles (5 lost), terrible place kicking (2 missed PAT's by Trout) and a host of mental errors overshadow a 300-yard passing day by Bradshaw and 100 yards receiving by Stallworth. Sidney Thornton ostensibly ends his career by coughing up the ball 3 times in a dismal 6-carry, 6-yd performance. The O-line repeatedly allows the KC front seven to penetrate literally untouched into the backfield, including on the backbreaking game-ender. Leading 33-30 with 2 minutes left, a first down inside the KC 30 and the Chiefs out of time outs, the Steelers (in spite of their avalanche of mistakes) seemingly have the game won. But as Bradshaw takes the snap and turns to hand the ball off to Franco Harris, LB Frank Manumaleuga crashes untouched through the middle of the line and hits Bradshaw before he can even hand the ball off. OLB Tom Howard (who is also untouched) scoops up the fumble and streaks 65 yards for a shocking game-winning score. Bradshaw's last gasp pass is picked off as the Steelers get off to a nightmare start to the 1981 season. Steelers fans, be warned: you'll spend much of this game wanting to punch announcer Bob Trumpy in the face. A special thanks to Matthew Simon for generously providing this classic video.
1981 Steelers 10 at Dolphins 30
Rough game. Even rougher video quality, plus severely edited huddles. Bradshaw takes a physical beating all evening with very little time from the O-line. The Steelers keep pace early, trailing 13-10 at halftime. But ill-timed penlties, porous run defense and poor special teams doom the Steelers, who give up a back-breaking 87-yard punt return to ice the game. Forced into desperation passes, Bradshaw throws a final pick and that's all she wrote. Ugly, ugly game. A special thanks to "SteelBuck 6" for generously providing this video.
1981 Steelers 38 vs Jets 10
Bradshaw is sharp and Stallworth is outstanding (8 rec, 134 yds), but ultimately it's the multitude of Steeler running backs (Franco Harris, Russell Davis, Frank Pollard and Sidney Thornton) who simply pound the Jets into submission by scoring 5 TDs on the ground and piling up 343 rushing yards. Even Bradshaw rushes for 41 yards and a TD! Early on, Bradshaw uses the pass to set up the run and Pittsburgh achieves near-perfect balance on offense, while Jack Lambert and the aging Steel Curtain defense give Joe Walton's offense NOTHING! This is a good 'ole fashioned butt-kicking.
1981 Steelers 27 vs Patriots 21 OT
Bradshaw to Swannie wins a wild one in overtime! Pittsburgh manhandles the Pats from start to finish... Bradshaw plays well, Franco & Pollard simply POUND New England, and aside from a few freak plays, the defense is outstanding (especially L.C. Greenwood, who is EVERYWHERE). But 2 missed Trout FGs, coming up short on 4th & goal from the 1 inch line, and a pair of HUGE defensive breakdowns on two "gadget plays" allow a thoroughly outplayed New England team to send game into OT. Swann puts a quick end to that, snaring 2 deadly passes in OT, including the 24-yard game winner.
1981 Steelers 13 vs Browns 7
Another classic! Several things stand out in my mind about this game: Swann's unthinkable drop of a sure TD bomb from Bradshaw; Swann's impossible grab of a 40-yard bomb down the right sideline; Blount's eye-popping hit on Calvin Hill. But above all, it's Lambert's BRUTAL, game-ending hit on Brian Sipe that I remember. The second in the trilogy of Lambert/Sipe run-ins, this one is easily the most vicious. Just as Sipe unleashes the ball, Lambert UNLOADS on him full blast, nearly ripping Sipe's head off with a dual forearm-to-the-head shot. Of course, flags fly. I'm telling you, I'm surprised it didn't kill Sipe (and frankly, he probably wished it had). As an added bonus, the cameras frequently pan to a dazed Sipe slumping on the bench with a towel over his head, clearly not knowing what planet he's on. Glorious! As usual, this one goes right down to the wire.
1981 Steelers 26 vs Oilers 13 MNF
Pittsburgh is all over Houston like a cheap suit on a rainy Monday Night. In spite of outgaining the Oilers 228-88 in the 1st half, a host of Steeler miscues (MORE missed PATs by David Trout and numerous drops by Jim Smith, including a PERFECT 50-yd bomb that hits him in stride in the end zone for a sure TD) keep Oilers in game, allowing them to tie it up 13-13 in the 4th. But Franco takes command late in the game, breaking a 35-yd run to set up the go-ahead TD, then punches it in for another TD moments later following a Johnson Int to seal it.
1981 Steelers 14 vs 49ers 17
Bradshaw vs Montana! Franco is superb, gaining over 100 yards in a losing effort that the Steelers could've (and probably should've) won. Lambert and Blount are fantastic, picking off passes on consecutive drives (Blount's for a 50-yard TD) to turn a 10-0 3rd quarter deficit into a 14-10 lead. But while the Steelers move the ball up and down the field offensively, their 6 turnovers ultimately prove to be too much to overcome.
1981 Steelers 21 at Seahawks 24
Franco breaks 10,000 career rushing yards as the Steelers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Early in the 2nd, Bradshaw hits a WIDE open Mark Malone for a team record 90-yd TD bomb and a 14-3 lead. The Steelers are up 21-3 and seem to be in control when they inexplicably allow Doornink to turn a short pass into a 44-yd TD and the Seahawks are suddenly back in it at 21-10. Trout misses a long 3rd qtr FG attempt that looks more like a squib kick. Early in 4th, Doornink again victimizes Pittsburgh with a short pass that turns into a 34-yd gain to set up a short TD. The crowd is suddenly into it, Seattle has momentum and Zorn hits Largent with a 53-yd bomb to set up another short TD and a 24-21 Seattle lead. Bradshaw responds with a pass to Franco that appears to go for an 82-yd TD, but a questionable holding call overturns the score. The Steelers get one last shot, driving to the Seattle 5 with 20 seconds left when in trots David Trout. Poised to send the game to overtime, Trout misses BADLY with what is probably the worst short kick I've ever seen. Perfect snap, pefect hold with the ball placed on the right hash. Trout hooks it so badly that the ball sails FAR wide left. Another game down the tubes due largely to Trout's horrible kicking. Game features Rocky Bleier in the booth for color commentary.
1981 Steelers 34 at Falcons 20
Terry Bradshaw (14 of 22, 253 yards) throws a career high 5 touchdowns, overshadowing a huge day by his counterpart, Steve Bartowski (33 of 50, 416 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT). While Atlanta moves the ball well through the air, they are a turnover factory. In addition to Bartowski's pair of INTs (Lambert and Shell), the Falcons lose 4 fumbles, 2 of which end Atlanta scoring threats with 2 others setting up Steeler scores. Stallworth also has a brilliant day with 6 catches for 127 yds and 2 TDs. A special thanks to "SteelBuck 6" for providing this sweet video upgrade!
1981 Steelers 24 vs Rams 0
Jack Lambert is seemingly everywhere as the Steelers pound Rams at Three Rivers! "Count Dracula in Cleats" gets up close and personal with Wendell Tyler early in the game and plays like a man possessed for the rest of the afternoon…Wendell never should've messed with Lambert! Also outstanding are Franco Harris, Mel Blount, and Jack Ham. Pat Haden gets knocked out of the game early and the Steel Curtain proceeds to beat backup Dan Pastorini like an ugly stepchild. Simply brutal!
1981 Steelers 27 at Raiders 30 MNF
With the Steelers leading 7-0 and a chance to extend their lead after a Blount INT early in the 2nd quarter, Bradshaw fractures his right hand (and effectively ends Pittsburgh's playoff hopes) on a Ted Hendricks sack. Backup QB Mark Malone comes in and plays surprisingly well for 2 quarters, but his miscues in the the 4th quarter (2 bad INTs, one in the end zone) along with a collapse by Steelers special teams (another missed PAT by Trout and a Raider punt return for a TD) doom the Steelers.
1982 Steelers 37 vs Colts 15 Preseason
The Steelers look to be in mid-season form as they simply overwhelm the Colts, especially Bradshaw who throws for 260 yards while playing only the first half, including 2 TDs to Stallworth and what should've been a third to Jim Smith if not for a drop. The Steelers appear able to do whatever they want offensively, with RB Greg Hawthorne in particular having a remarkable receiving day. Game features 3 missed PATs by 2 of the NFL's worst kickers (Dave Trout and Mike Wood).
1982 Steelers 36 at Cowboys 28 MNF
The Landry-era Cowboys experience a rare loss in a home opener thanks to 3 Terry Bradshaw TD passes and an opportunistic Pittsburgh defense. Things get off to a rocky start for Pittsburgh when they fumble away the opening kickoff after a good return. But Dallas fails to capitalize after driving to the Pittsburgh 15 when a botched, stumbling handoff from White to Dorsett is recovered by Pittsburgh. From there, Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw (17 of 28, 246 yds, 3 TD, 0 Int), Franco Harris (24 carries, 103 yds) and John Stallworth (7 rec, 137 yds, 1 TD) all shine as the venerable Steelers outsmart, outplay and outlast the powerful Cowboys on Monday Night Football. The teams trade TDs in the first half and Dallas clings to a 14-13 lead at the break with the difference being a missed Pittsburgh PAT. With Tony Dorsett completely neutralized by Pittsburgh's new 3-4 defensive scheme (11 carries, 30 yards), Pittsburgh puts the game on Danny White's shoulders. White responds with 347 yds and 4 TDs but is also victimized for a pair of interceptions (Jack Ham, Rick Woods) and a blocked punt in the 3rd quarter, allowing the Steelers to explode for 20 unanswered points en route to an insurmountable 33-14 lead, rendering a late Dallas comeback effort irrelevant. A bright start to a season that was probably the most enjoyable of the '80s for me, in spite of being strike-shortened and ending in the first round of the playoffs. Thanks to Russell "SteelBuck 6" Emch for generously providing this sweet video upgrade!
1982 Steelers 26 vs Bengals 20 OT
Franco Harris rushes for only 6 yds on 3 carries but catches a career-high 11 passes for 88 yds in a thriller. QBs Bradshaw & Anderson both do great Montana impressions, dinking & dunking their way up & down the field all afternoon. But while Bradshaw throws 3 TD strikes and no INTs, Anderson is picked off 3 times (2 by Donnie Shell) including one in the end zone after Cinci had driven to the Steeler 3 yard line. Ham's consistent harassment of Anderson, a blocked chip-shot FG on the final play of regulation and Dwayne Woodruff's INT & subsequent return to the Bengal 4 in overtime are game-savers for the Steelers. After this game... the NFL players went on strike. :( Features some pregame & haltime stuff.
1982 Steelers 24 at Oilers 10
Both teams show signs of rust coming back from the 57-day NFL Players strike in a sloppy game with a preseason feel. Gifford Nielsen flounders around for most of the game and throws 3 INTs (2 by Donnie Shell), but somehow plays the sluggish Steelers to a 10-10 3rd quarter tie. Hoping for a spark, the newly acquired Archie Manning comes off the bench in the 3rd quarter and is promptly stripped of the ball by Jack Ham and Lambert recover at the Houston 17. Bradshaw immediately capitalizes, hitting Cunningham in the middle of the end zone on the next play for a 17-10 lead. Following an Oiler punt, Bradshaw sticks the dagger in Houston with his 3rd TD pass of the game, a perfect 32-yard strike to Jim Smith to secure a 24-10 victory. Tape ends with 1:38 remaining.
1982 Steelers 35 vs Chiefs 14
Bradshaw, Stallworth and Lambert shine in an absolute butt-kicking. Bradshaw comes into the game with a sore shoulder and it's rumored that Terry's elbow problems started in training camp in '82, but there's absolutely no evidence of any arm issues in this game. After a tipped pass is picked off early, Bradshaw is nearly flawless (15 of 20, 231 yds), striking deep repeatedly and exploding for 3 TDs in the first half, including a spectacular 74-yd TD strike to Stallworth (4 rec., 107 yds, 2 TD) in which Terry rifles the ball 50 yards downfield with a mere flick of his wrist, hitting Stallworth perfectly in stride. Bradshaw strikes deep again just before the half, uncorking a 51-yarder down the middle to Jim Smith to set up a 1-yd plunge by Harris that gives the Steelers a 28-7 halftime lead. Meanwhile, Chiefs QB Steve Fuller is pummeled mercilessly as the Steelers sack him 8 times (3 by Jack Lambert) with jailbreak after jailbreak and Donnie Shell adds to his NFL-leading INT total. With a comfortable lead and few signs of life from Kansas City, Cliff Stoudt enters the game in relief of Bradshaw in the 3rd quarter. Video includes halftime show with highlights from around the league.
1982 Steelers 37 vs Patriots 14
This is an absolute butt-kicking. Bradshaw shakes off a 2-game slump (17 of 27, 282 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INT) as Steelers absolutely dominate Pats, effortlessly moving the ball up and down the field. If not for a pair of ill-timed fumbles, the final score could've been much worse. Swannie (3 rec, 40 yds) breaks the Steelers' all-time reception record early in the game as Bradshaw spreads the ball around to 8 different receivers, while Franco does his part by rushing for over 100 yards.
1982 Steelers 37 vs Browns 21
Franco looks amazingly quick & agile, putting on an incredible show as he earns his 42nd career 100-yard game (120 yards on 23 carries), passing O.J. Simpson for 3rd all-time. In spite of some mistakes, Bradshaw, Swann, & the Steel Curtain also shine as Pittsburgh pummels Cleveland & leads 27-7 after 3 quarters. "The Jinx" is clearly working its voodoo in this one as back-up QB Paul McDonald throws an absolutely picture-perfect 40-yard TD bomb to a WIDE open receiver... who promptly drops it. In spite getting their butts kicked, Cleveland makes it interesting late in the game. Under the constant pressure of a fierce Steeler pass rush, McDonald & the Cleveland offense somehow sputter their way to two 4th quarter TDs, closing to 27-21 with 5 long minutes remaining. But facing 3rd and 11 from their own 19, Bradshaw hits Swannie (5 rec., 104 yds) for 57 yards up the middle (plus a 15-yard personal foul on the play) and Gary Anderson nails the icing FG. Following McDonald's 4th INT of the day, the Steelers easily grind out yet another TD. Game has a minute or two of sound & tracking problems early in 1st quarter, but is otherwise fine.
1982 AFC Playoffs Steelers 28 vs Chargers 31
Bradshaw vs. Fouts in a shootout that more than lives up to the hype. San Diego fumbles the opening kickoff and Pittsburgh recovers for a TD and is up by 7 before either offense takes the field. Bradshaw is unbelievable for most of the afternoon, hitting 24 of his first 26 passes including 14 in a row at one point. Stallworth catches 8 for 116 yds and a TD and while Franco gains on 35 yards rushing, he leads all receivers with a career high 11 catches. Meanwhile, Fouts is Fouts, matching Bradshaw's 325-yard passing effort with 333 yards of his own. San Diego's offense piles up yardage with Chuck Muncie rushing for 126 yards and both Wes Chandler and Kellen Winslow going over 100 yards receiving. Even so, the Steelers seem to be on the road to victory with a 28-17 4th quarter lead until a late Bradshaw INT opens the door for a San Diego comeback. Equally damaging is a drop by Cunningham late in the game that ends a promising drive and a host of "almost INT's" that Steelers defenders fail to hang onto. The key play of the game is a HUGE 4th quarter INT by Blount in the end zone that is nullified by a penalty away from the play on Jack Ham in the final game of his Hall of Fame career.
The Wonder Years? Or the Dark Ages?
Ah, the '80s... the "Dark Years" of Steelers football. ***SHUDDER*** I turned 12 in 1980 and the end of the '70s dynasty was one of my first wake-up calls to the fact that life is often filled with disappoinments and unwanted changes. At the time, I had no real concept of how ephemeral NFL careers are, so the seemingly sudden retirements of the heros of my youth like Bradshaw, Swann, Lambert, etc. were somewhat shocking to my young mind and left me a bit disillusioned with football. High school was right around the corner and with it came a major shift in interests. My passion for football was soon replaced by a preoccupation with girls, guitars... and girls. :) While I still cheered for the Steelers and watched them when I could, the deeper connection I'd felt toward the players of the '70s was lost and I busied myself with other pursuits. As a result, you won't find as many games from the '80s on the site as from earlier years.
Perspective: The Factory of Sadness
It's interesting (and illustrative of how consistently good the Steelers really are) that as bad as things seemed during the "Dark Years" of the 1980's, the Steelers still made the playoffs 4 times and only suffered 3 seasons with a losing record.
Contrast those results with the last 14 years of futility from the "Factory of Sadness" in Cleveland: