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Super Bowl XIII Review

Super Bowl XIII Review: Steelers vs. Cowboys

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

Date: January 21, 1979

Site: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida

Point-Spread: Pittsburgh Steelers -4/ Dallas Cowboys +4

Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

MVP: QB Terry Bradshaw

Super Bowl XIII is notable for several reasons. It was the first time two teams rematched from a previous Super Bowl, as Dallas and Pittsburgh contested the big game 3 years prior, won by Pittsburgh 21-17--the same margin of victory for this game. It was also the highest-scoring Super Bowl up to this point, only surpassed many years later when Dallas beat Buffalo 52-17.

Unlike that game, however, this one was competitive--a well-played game that kept fans riveted. Contested between the two most popular franchises in football, this was a key superbowl that did giant ratings. This would also be the first season of the 16-game regular season. Dallas had gone 12-4, with Pittsburgh a stellar 14-2. It would also be the 5th and final game hosted by the Orange Bowl in Miami.

Each team was trying to become the first to win 3 Super Bowls. Dallas was in its 5th Super Bowl in 9 seasons, having gone 2-2 in their previous 4 attempts. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, had won both of their Super Bowl appearances and looked to make it a perfect 3 for 3. The Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” defense was still in effect and the league’s top-rated defense. Adding to the already-tough defense of Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, Joe Greene, and L.C. Greenwood were new standouts like Tony Dungy and Donnie Shell, who fortified the Pittsburgh secondary.

Dallas, the defending Super Bowl champions, had the top-scoring offense, led by QB Roger Staubach, who had a deep cast of playmakers. RB Tony Dorsett had another fine season, as did FB Robert Newhouse. Halfback Preston Pearson made meaningful contributions and WR Drew Pearson had another big year. The “Doomsday Defense” was again the top-rated “D” in the league.


Dallas went through their playoff opponents, beating Atlanta 27-20, before squashing the Rams 28-0 in the NFC title game. After starting the year 6-4, they were on an 8-game winning streak entering Super Bowl 1979. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, really pounded their playoff adversaries, beating Denver 33-10, before defeating Houston by a score of 34-5 in the AFC title game.

Super Bowl 13 Recap

First Half: This wasn’t the first Super Bowl to get a lot of attention, but Super Bowl 13 was a match-up of two giants--two nationally treasured teams with tons of stars on both sidelines. Dallas got cooking early, with Tony Dorsett’s fine play setting up Dallas in Pittsburgh territory. But a costly fumble on a trick play gave Pittsburgh the ball. A nice pass play from Bradshaw to WR John Stallworth gave Pittsburgh a first down and a 28-yard strike to Stallworth put the Steelers up 7-0.

Dallas was forced to punt, giving the ball back to Pittsburgh, who proceeded to drive into Dallas territory. Bradshaw, however, was picked off this time by Dallas linebacker D.D. Lewis. Bradshaw got the ball back, but coughed it up after getting sacked by Harvey Martin. Staubach capitalized, scoring on a 39-yard passing strike to Tony Hill.

The 2nd quarter began with a 7-7 tie. On a botched play, Bradshaw got wrapped up by Hollywood Henderson and then had the ball stripped by Mike Hegman, who returned the ball 37 yards for a touchdown to put the Cowboys up 14-7. On the Steelers next series, however, Bradshaw again connected with Stallworth, who broke a tackle and took the short pass the full route--75 yards for a touchdown to knot the score at 14-14. With the first half coming to a close, Mel Blount picked off Staubach, giving the Steelers the ball at their own 44. Two big pass plays to Lynn Swann, who won the MVP in Super Bowl X, set the Steelers up close. A 7-yard touchdown pass to Rocky Bleier put Pittsburgh up 21-14 at halftime.

Second Half: The defenses ruled most of the third period, until late. Fine running by Dorsett set up Dallas deep, before one of the famous drops ever on Super Bowl Sunday occurred. On the 10-yard line, Staubach spotted a wide-open Jackie Smith, who couldn’t make the play. Rafael Septien ended up kicking a field goal to make it 21-17. That 4-points difference would end up being critical.

In the 4th, Dallas caught some bad officiating breaks, which allowed Pittsburgh to keep their drive alive. Even on Pittsburgh’s scoring play, a 22-yard scamper by Franco Harris, the refs blocked the Dallas defense, making it a bit easier on Harris as he put Pittsburgh up 28-17. On the ensuing kick-off, Pittsburgh kicker Roy Gerela lost his footing and ended up squib-kicking it to Randy White, who fumbled the ball before being hit by Tony Dungy to give Pittsburgh the ball at the Dallas 18. Pittsburgh wasted no time, as on first down, Terry Bradshaw connected with Lynn Swann to go up 35-17.

Staubach never gave up and showed a lot of guts on the next 2 drives, which were punctuated by his near-misses and scrambles to keep the drives alive. Staubach connected with Billy Joe Dupree to narrow the score to 35-24. With a little over 2 minutes left, Dallas recovered their onside kick and after some nice catches by Drew Pearson set up Staubach’s 4-yard scoring pass to Butch Johnson to make it 35-31. With :22 left in the game, the Dallas hopes were slim and when they failed to recover another onside kick--it was a wrap. Pittsburgh became the first team to win 3 Super Bowls.

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