While the Steelers had the sheer talent to come back to defeat the Rams, there was more to it than that. Plays that were a matter of inches, a player’s misfortune or other unforeseeable events turned on a dime and the game with it.
My purpose is to take one of these game-breaking plays and turn it in another direction and then estimate the result of the game from that point.
The play I chose took place with about nine minutes to go in the third quarter. The Steelers had the ball 1st and 10 from their own 44 yard line. In reality, Bradshaw passed the ball into the arms of Rams defensive back Nolan Cromwell, who, with only the Steeler end zone in front of him, dropped the ball!
Cromwell was an exceptional athlete who could have played quarterback or running back. I want this play back because his teammates have said he would have caught the ball 99 times out of 100. So here goes my projection of the rest of the game, using the real plays and results that followed to the extent practical.
Corral’s extra point after Cromwell’s touchdown makes the score 26-17 in favor of the Rams. On the kickoff, Larry Anderson takes the ball to the Pittsburgh 37 with 9:06 to go in the third quarter.
After two short runs by Harris, Bradshaw throws to Harris for a first down at the Ram 39. On the next set of downs, Bradshaw, again facing third and five, can’t find a receiver and scrambles for a first down.
A pass to Thornton gets the Steelers inside the Ram 10, but Bradshaw suffers his third interception when Elmendorf deflects a pass intended for Stallworth and Perry catches it in the end zone for a touchback.
Ferragamo and the Rams take over at their own 20 with 3:30 left in the third quarter. A couple of Tyler runs take them to the Ram 33, but a subsequent sack of Ferragamo costs them a chance at another first down. Clark’s long punt is returned by Smith to the Steeler 25 as the third quarter ends.
Harris runs left for two yards before Thornton drops a pass from Bradshaw. On third-and-eight, Bradshaw rolls the dice and hits John Stallworth in stride at the Ram 32. No one can stop the wide receiver from scoring on a 73-yard play. Bahr’s extra point makes the score Rams 26, Steelers 24.
The two teams exchange punts. The Rams get the ball back on their own 16 yard line. Two straight completions to Dennard put the ball on the Ram 48. Tyler runs for a first down and then slips on the next play. Ferragamo tries to connect with Nelson but the pass is overthrown.
This brings up 3rd down and 13 from the Steeler 47. Ferragamo finds Waddy on the right sideline for fifteen yards to get a first down at the 32.
Ferrago hands off twice to Wendell Tyler. The second rush gets the Rams to the 25. On third-and-three, Ferragamo tries Bryant, who is stopped a yard short of the first down.
After the 2 minute warning, Malavasi sends in the field goal unit. Corral runs up to the ball, but Cromwell pulls it away and makes a run for the right side. But the Steelers, who were familiar with Cromwell’s successful play against the Cowboys, stopped him short of the first down.
Steeler ball on their own 23 with 1:50 to go in the game. Both teams have all three time outs available.
Bradshaw starts by passing to Harris, who makes a gain of 14. Using a “hurry-up” offense, Bradshaw calls for a pass to Stallworth, but Cromwell breaks it up. After the Steelers are called for a false start, Bradshaw throws to Smith for a short gain before Smith gets out of bounds.
It is now 3rd and 9 from the Steeler 38 with 1:18 to go. Bradshaw decides to throw it deep to Smith, but Brown makes a spectacular catch in front of him for an interception.
After Ferragamo kneels on the ball twice, the game is over with the Rams 26-24 winners. Ferragamo takes the Most Valuable Player Award.
See the actual Super Bowl XIV play-by-play here