The Steelers dynasty began winning championships in 1974-75.Â Their era of glory should have begun two years earlier in 1972. In fact, the winning era of Steelers football, namely the second half or latter forty years, began in '72.Â It was a year of hard work, an earned turnaround and an enormous miracle
The defense finished fifth in the NFL in points surrendered, and their penchant for gathering up turnoversâ"including 28 interceptions (team leader Jack Ham had seven picks)â"allowed a developing, inconsistent offense some leeway.
Terry Bradshaw's dozen touchdowns matched his dozen INTs, though top targets Lynn Swann and John Stallworth would not arrive until the "immaculate" (there's that word again!) 1974 NFL Draft class.Â Franco Harris buoyed the offense, eclipsing 1,000 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
Fan excitement grew as the 11-3 Steelers entered the playoffs for the first time in seemingly forever, doing so playing their best football in years and harboring momentum.Â
Steelers Country was ready for the intensity of playoff football in their newly christened Three Rivers Stadium.Â Â When Kenny Stabler scored on a long touchdown run on a broken play, Pittsburgh suddenly trailed 7-6 with little time left.
Then, it happened...the play.
Grandfathers still tell grandchildren about the greatest play they have ever seen by the greatest dynasty they have ever seen.
The only difference between then and now is that at the time, they simply didn't know about that "dynasty" part just yet.Â In fact, if you look closely enough at an elder recapping the story, provided you are too young to have experienced it yourself, you may well see the flash of glee reflecting from his eyes.
From hearing Myron's call of "Yoi and double yoi!" during the radio broadcast to carrying on with other fans at the local sports bar, any loyalist present for the most iconic moment in team history will remember exactly where they were for...
The Immaculate Reception!
Many are those who can almost hear the full call by Steelers radio announcer Jack Fleming:
Hang onto your hats!Â Here come the Steelers out of the huddle. Terry Bradshaw at the controls. Twenty-two seconds remaining, and this crowd is standing.Â Bradshaw, back and looking again. Bradshaw running out of the pocket, looking for somebody to throw to, fires it down field, and there's a collision! It's caught out of the air! The ball is pulled in by Franco Harris!! Harris is going for a touchdown for Pittsburgh!! Harris is going!! 5 seconds left on the clock!! Franco Harris pulled in the football, I don't even know where he came from!!
Bradshaw rolled right, unleashed a desperate heave over the middle toward Frenchy Fuqua, Jack Tatum collided with the intended target, the ball flied backwards in a directly opposed direction to Tatum's momentum (physics, anyone?), and Franco snagged the pigskin before it hits the ground.
Harris ran to paydirt as the Oakland Raiders cried foul, but the play stood as called.Â The controversy sparked a new rivalry and began a new era in Steelers football.
If finally winning games served as the foundation for bigger things ahead, this classic contest, which rests in disdain for Al Davis and John Madden, served as the first post for a house of champions.
The exciting Steelers, built on the image of Chuck Noll, were supremely talented, welcoming in a level of excitement to a city that had previously only known the thrill of the World Series pennants.
While the season ended one week later (on the same day that Roberto Clemente passed) in a mistake-riddled 21-17 home loss to the eventual undefeated Miami Dolphins, the up-and-comers served notice to the rest of the NFL that a young new challenger to the throne was rising in Western Pennsylvania, a region where the local football team hadn't ever matched the local homegrown talent.