It was the first overtime tie in NFL history, but it also marked the beginning of the end for quarterback Joe Gilliam, who started for Terry Bradshaw and passed for 348 yards. Gilliam, however, threw so often (a club-record 50 attempts), against the wishes of coach Chuck Noll, that Bradshaw was reinserted as the starter and led the team to their first Super Bowl.
The Steelers' attempt for an unprecedented third Super Bowl trophy was ended in Denver by the Broncos, who eventually advanced to the Super Bowl. The game likely is best remembered for defensive tackle Joe Greene punching guard Paul Howard in the stomach because he was continually being held.
At Three Rivers Stadium, Hall of Fame wide receiver John Stallworth caught a playoff-record 10 passes for 156 yards, including a spectacular 48-yard touchdown, to start the Steelers on their way to a third Super Bowl title.
The game marked the NFL debut of quarterback John Elway, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft who was traded to the Broncos after he refused to sign with the Baltimore Colts, the team that drafted him. Elway was 1 of 8 for 14 yards and was sacked four times before he was replaced by veteran Steve DeBerg, who threw the winning touchdown in Three Rivers Stadium.
After finishing the regular season with a 9-7 record, the visiting Steelers were heavy underdogs against Elway and the 13-3 Broncos, who already were anticipating a matchup against Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins a week later. Instead, the Steelers surprised them by coming back from a 17-10 deficit to win on Frank Pollard's 2-yard touchdown run with 1:59 remaining.
In one of the most disappointing playoff losses in team history, the Steelers took leads of 13-0 and 23-17, only to lose when Elway drove the Broncos 71 yards for the winning touchdown with 2:22 remaining in Denver. With a chance to win the game with a field goal, receiver Mark Stock dropped a first-down pass near midfield and center Chuck Lanza botched a shotgun snap two plays later.
One month after they easily defeated the Broncos in Three Rivers Stadium, the host Steelers frittered away a 14-7 lead when quarterback Kordell Stewart, who accounted for 32 touchdowns in the regular season, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. The loss cost them a chance to return to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.
In Denver, the Steelers jumped to a 24-3 lead behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and forced Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer into four turnovers on their way to becoming the first No. 6 seed to win the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger completed 21 of 29 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a 4-yard touchdown.
Gerry Dulac can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .