Let's Learn From the Past: Super Bowl IX

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The Pittsburgh Steelers emphatically proved that "defense wins championships" with their first Super Bowl victory on Jan. 12, 1975, in New Orleans.

Super Bowl IX pitted two of the NFL's most legendary -- and well nicknamed -- defenses in a hard-fought, defensive struggle. In the first half, Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense held the Minnesota offense to zero yards rushing, while the Vikings' "Purple People Eaters" defense limited the Steelers high-powered offense to just 15 passing yards and four first downs.

The first half's only points came midway through the second quarter when Steelers defensive end Dwight White, who was playing the game with a 103-degree fever, downed Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton in the end zone for a safety -- the first safety in Super Bowl history.

A low-scoring game was expected, but the Steelers' 2-0 lead remains the lowest halftime score in Super Bowl history. The defensive trend continued in the second half, as the Steelers forced and recovered a Viking fumble on the opening kickoff.

Three plays later, second-year running back Franco Harris scored on a 9-yard touchdown for the only points of the third quarter.

The Vikings got on the board in the fourth quarter with a blocked punt in the Steelers end zone -- but missed the extra point -- cutting the lead to 9-6. The Steelers then put the game out of reach with an 11-play, 66-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock. Terry Bradshaw's touchdown pass to tight end Larry Brown put the finishing touches on a 16-6 victory, the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

Two years removed from his famous "Immaculate Reception," Harris rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown to earn the game's Most Valuable Player -- the first African-American to merit the honor. After the game, the team presented the game ball to longtime owner Art Rooney in the locker room.

Visitors to the Heinz History Center can learn more about the Steelers' championship dynasty of the 1970s as part of the new exhibition, "Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame." Information: www.heinzhistorycenter.org.

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