With the NFL’s 100th season underway, it is time to take a look back at some of the greatest games in the history of this league. In this special 32 part series, we will take a step back in time and look into some of the greatest matchups in NFL history. The first team to take a look at is…
THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS!
Last week, the Steelers were on the road against the 49ers. Let’s take a look back into one of Pittsburgh’s greatest road wins of all time!
After meeting in Week 9 of the 1981 NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame wide receiver, John Stallworth, was enjoying a comeback season after starting only four games in 1983 while Joe Montana, the San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback, was in Pro Bowl form and leading the 49ers to their best start since 1948 at a record of 6-0.
In their only meeting at Candlestick Park, John Stallworth and the Steelers offense took an early 10-0 lead with a rushing touchdown from 9th round draft pick, rookie running back Rich Erenberg, and a 48 yard field goal from kicker Gary Anderson. But, late in the 2nd quarter, Joe Montana cut into Pittsburgh’s lead with a rushing touchdown himself before halftime to make the score 10-7.
After a defensive 3rd quarter, Joe Montana and the 49ers offense finally started to build some momentum with a long scoring drive into the 4th quarter that ended with a 30 yard field goal from Ray Wersching (the 49ers 2nd all time leading scorer). But, after a big interception from Pro Bowl linebacker Keena Turner, San Francisco took their first lead of the game with a rushing touchdown from Pro Bowl running back Wendell Tyler with 10:48 remaining in the game.
With the 49ers leading 17-10, John Stallworth and the Steelers offense managed a late drive into San Francisco’s red zone with under five minutes to go in the game. On a 4th and goal, Mark Malone, Pittsburgh’s quarterback, fired a pass into the end zone for Stallworth that was defended by Pro Bowl cornerback Eric Wright. However, a controversial pass interference flag was thrown on Wright and the Steelers took advantage with an acrobatic touchdown reception from John Stallworth to tie the score at 17-17.
As Joe Montana took the field with three minutes to go, San Francisco’s chances of a perfect season was thwarted by an interception from Pittsburgh’s linebacker, Bryan Hinkle (a 6th round draft pick from Oregon in 1981). After Gary Anderson put the Steelers back into the lead with a 21 yard field goal, the 49ers offense took the field with under two minutes to go and started a potential game-tying drive.
With Montana leading the way, San Francisco managed a 55 yard drive to set up a 37 yard field goal attempt for Ray Wersching with 10 seconds remaining. But, Wersching’s kick drifted to the left and John Stallworth would win his only meeting against Joe Montana at Candlestick Park by the score of 20-17.
Aftermath (49ers): With their chance at a perfect season gone, the 49ers dominated their opponents over the next nine weeks and finished with a 15-1 record in the regular season (the 1984 49ers were the first team to reach 15 wins). In the playoffs, the 49ers advanced to their 2nd Super Bowl in four years with a convincing win over the Giants in the divisional round and a shutout over the Bears in the NFC Championship.
In Super Bowl XIX, Joe Montana earned MVP honors with 331 passing yards and four touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing) in a 38-16 win over league MVP Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins.
Aftermath (Steelers): Despite handing the eventual Super Bowl champions their only loss of the season, John Stallworth and the Steelers would lose their next game against the Colts and drop to 4-4 on the year. But, Pittsburgh continued to battle hard for the rest of the season and won their last two games to clinch their 2nd straight AFC Central division title with a record of 9-7.
In the playoffs, the 1984 Steelers would upset future Hall of Fame QB John Elway and the Denver Broncos in the divisional round by the score of 24-17 before falling short in the AFC Championship against Miami.