Super Bowl XIII was an American football game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Dallas Cowboys to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1978 season….as the game was played on January 21, 1979, at the Orange Bowl in Miami….which was the fifth and last time that the Super Bowl was played in that stadium.
This was the first Super Bowl that featured a rematch of a previous one…when the Steelers had previously beaten the Cowboys, 21–17, in Super Bowl X….as both teams were attempting to be the first club to ever win a third Super Bowl. Dallas was also the defending Super Bowl XII champion….finishing the 1978 regular season with a 12–4 record….and posting playoff victories over the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams…while the Steelers entered the game after posting a 14–2 regular season record with playoff wins over the Denver Broncos and the Houston Oilers.
Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw….who was named Super Bowl MVP after completing 17 out of 30 passes for Super Bowl records of 318 passing yards and 4 touchdown passes….as Bradshaw eclipsed Bart Starr’s Super Bowl record for passing yards in the first half with 253 yards in the air….as the Steelers led 21–14 at intermission. Bradshaw’s 75-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter also tied Johnny Unitas in Super Bowl V for the longest pass in Super Bowl history at the time. The Cowboys were able to stay close….only trailing 21–17 at the end of the third quarter….but Pittsburgh scored two touchdowns in a span of 19 seconds in the fourth period….as Dallas could not overcome turnovers, drops, and a controversial penalty during the second half. The Cowboys were eventually able to score two touchdowns in the final minutes of the game….but still ended up being the first defending champion to lose in the Super Bowl….as well as the first losing Super Bowl team to score 30 points or more.
The game came to be known as “Black Sunday” in Las Vegas….as the point spread opened at Pittsburgh -3.5 points….and after the Steelers backers placed bets on them….the sportsbooks adjusted the line to the Steelers at -4.5….and that is when the Dallas money poured in on the Cowboys. It eventually settled at Pittsburgh at -4….which meant that the Steelers’ four-point margin of victory meant the Las Vegas sportsbooks lost the vast majority of wagers on the game.
The Steelers joined the Cowboys in their attempt to be the first team to ever win a third Super Bowl….after wins in Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X. Pittsburgh QB Terry Bradshaw had the best season of his career by completing 207 of 368 passes for 2,915 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 20 interceptions….and ranking as the second highest rated passer in the league (84.8) as his 28 touchdown passes led the league….allowing him to win the NFL Most Valuable Player Award….while wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth provided the team with a great deep threat….as Swann recorded 61 receptions for 880 yards and 11 touchdowns….while Stallworth had 41 receptions for 798 yards and 9 touchdowns….and TE Randy Grossman, who replaced injured starter Bennie Cunningham for most of the season….also was a big factor in recording 37 receptions for 448 yards and a touchdown. RB Franco Harris was the team’s leading rusher for the 7th consecutive season by rushing for 1,082 yards and 8 touchdowns….while also catching 22 passes for another 144 yards….and RB Rocky Bleier had 633 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns….while also catching 17 passes for 168 yards. The Steelers’ success on offense was due in large measure to their stellar offensive line which was anchored by future Hall of Fame center Mike Webster.
Although Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” defense had some new starters such as linemen John Banaszak and Steve Furness….along with DB Tony Dungy….they still finished first in fewest points allowed (195)….second in the league against the run (allowing 107.8 yards per game)….and ranked third in fewest total yards allowed (4,529). Once again, defensive tackles Joe Greene and L. C. Greenwood anchored the line….while Pro Bowl linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert combined for 7 interceptions. Dungy led the team with 6 interceptions….while the rest of the secondary DB’s Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, and Ron Johnson combined for 11 picks.
The Cowboys became the first team to appear in five Super Bowls….after playing in Super Bowls V, VI, X and XII….as the Cowboys led the league in scoring (384) and were No. 2 in total yards (5,959). The defending Super Bowl champions were once again led by quarterback Roger Staubach….who finished the season as the top rated passer in the NFL (84.9) by throwing 231 out of 413 completions for 3,190 yards and 25 touchdowns with 16 interceptions….as he also rushed for 182 yards and another touchdown. Wide receivers Drew Pearson and Tony Hill provided the deep passing threats by combining for 90 receptions, 1,537 yards, and 7 touchdowns….while TE Billy Joe DuPree contributed 34 receptions for 509 yards and 9 touchdowns. Running back Tony Dorsett had another fine season, recording a total of 1,703 combined rushing and receiving yards….while scoring a total of 9 touchdowns. Fullback Robert Newhouse and halfback Preston Pearson also contributed from the offensive backfield by combining for 1,326 rushing and receiving yards….while Newhouse also scored 10 touchdowns. The Cowboys also had a superb offensive line that was led by Herbert Scott and 12-time Pro Bowler Rayfield Wright.
The Cowboys’ “Doomsday Defense” finished the season as the top ranked defense in the league against the run by only allowing 107.6 yards per game….2nd in total yards allowed (4,009)….and 3rd in points allowed (208)….as Pro Bowl linemen Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Harvey Martin, and Randy White anchored the line and led the league with 58 sacks….while linebackers Bob Breunig, D. D. Lewis and Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson provided solid support. Their secondary was led by safeties Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters along with cornerbacks Benny Barnes and Aaron Kyle, combined for 16 interceptions.
The Cowboys started the regular season slowly, winning only six of their first ten games….but Dallas finished strong by winning their last six regular season games to post a 12–4 record. Dallas marched through the playoffs by defeating the Atlanta Falcons, 27–20 and the Los Angeles Rams, 28–0. Meanwhile, the Steelers easily demolished the Denver Broncos, 33–10, and the Houston Oilers, 34–5.
Although the Super Bowl had grown into America’s biggest one-day sporting event by this point, many believe the 13th edition began the game’s evolution to unofficial national holiday. It was the first Super Bowl with a true heavyweight title-fight feel, given the Steelers’ and Cowboys’ unquestioned status as the two best teams in the NFL, and the honor of the first three-time Super Bowl champion (and likely team of the 1970s designation) that would go to the winner.
Super Bowl XIII can arguably be called the greatest collection of NFL talent ever to gather for a game….for in addition to coaches Noll and Landry….14 players would end up being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of the 14 Hall of Fame players to play in this game, nine were Pittsburgh players (Bradshaw, Harris, Swann, Stallworth, Webster, Greene, Lambert, Ham, and Blount), and five were Dallas players (Staubach, Dorsett, White, Wright, and Jackie Smith). The Cowboys had lured Smith out of retirement from the St. Louis Cardinals, due to injuries to Cowboys tight ends….like most notably, Jay Saldi. Other Hall of Famers who participated in the game representing the Cowboys were general manager/team president Tex Schramm, and defensive coordinator Ernie Stautner, who actually was a Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Steelers. Additional Hall of Famers representing the Steelers included owner Art Rooney, Sr., and son Dan Rooney….as all of this makes this video must see TV….and truly a “nugget of gold” in the Imasportsphile video treasure chest.