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Super Bowl XIII

Super Bowl XIII was an American football game played on January 21, 1979 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion following the 1978 regular season. This was the last of five Super Bowls to be played at the Orange Bowl.

The American Football Conference (AFC) champion Pittsburgh Steelers (17-2) defeated the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Dallas Cowboys (14-5), 35–31. It was the first Super Bowl rematch ever. The Steelers had previously beaten the Cowboys, 21–17, in Super Bowl X.

Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw was named Super Bowl MVP. Despite throwing 1 interception and losing 2 fumbles, Bradshaw completed 17 out of 30 passes for 318 yards and 4 touchdowns. His 318 passing yards and 4 passing touchdowns broke Super Bowl records. Also, his 75-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter tied Johnny Unitas in Super Bowl V for the longest in a Super Bowl. Bradshaw became the first player since the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger to win both the Super Bowl MVP and the AP Most Valuable Player Award during the same season.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys could not overcome turnovers, drops, and a controversial penalty during the second half. The Cowboys were the first defending champion to lose in the Super Bowl. They were also the first to lose two Super Bowls to the same team (they lost 21-17 to the Steelers in Super Bowl X). The 31 point total of the Cowboys makes it the only team to score above 30 and lose.


For the 1978-79 season, the NFL extended its schedule from 14 regular season games to 16, and increased the playoffs from an 8-team tournament to 10, creating two extra playoff games. The three division winners from each conference would be ranked first through third and be given a week off, and two wild card teams from each conference, seeded fourth and fifth, would play a playoff game with the winner going on to play the first seeded team (or, if they were in the same division, the second seed).

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers joined the Cowboys in their attempt to be the first team to ever win a third Super Bowl, after wins in Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X. Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw had the best season of his career, completing 207 of 368 passes for 2,915 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 20 interceptions. He ranked as the second highest rated passer in the league (84.8), his 28 touchdown passes led the league, and he won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award. Wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth provided the team with a great deep threat. Swann recorded 61 receptions for 880 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Stallworth had 41 receptions for 798 yards and 9 touchdowns. Tight end Randy Grossman, who replaced injured starter Bennie Cunningham for most of the season, also was a big factor, recording 37 receptions for 448 yards and a touchdown.

In the Steelers' rushing game, running back Franco Harris was the team's leading rusher for the 7th consecutive season, recording 1,082 yards and 8 touchdowns, while also catching 22 passes for another 144 yards. Fullback Rocky Bleier had 633 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns, while also catching 17 passes for 168 yards. The Steelers' success on offense was due in large measure to their stellar offensive line, anchored by future hall of fame center Mike Webster

Although Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense had some new starters this season, such as linemen John Banaszak and Steve Furness, and defensive back Tony Dungy, they finished second in the league against the run (allowing 107.8 yards per game) and ranked third in fewest total yards allowed (4,529). Once again, defensive tackles Joe Greene and L. C. Greenwood anchored the line, while Pro Bowl linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert combined for 7 interceptions. Dungy lead the team with 6 interceptions, while the rest of the secondary, defensive backs Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, and Ron Johnson, combined for 11.

The Steelers went on to finish with the league's best regular season record (14-2). The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers team is recognized as number 3 on the list of America's Game and the top Super Bowl Championship teams of all-time, behind the (#2) 1985 Chicago Bears and the (#1) undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys became the first team to appear in five Super Bowls (after playing in Super Bowls V, VI, X and XII). The defending Super Bowl champions were again led by quarterback Roger Staubach. Staubach finished the season as the top rated passer in the NFL (84.9) by throwing 231 out of 413 completions for 3,190 yards and 25 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions. He also rushed for 182 yards and another touchdown. Wide receivers Drew Pearson and Tony Hill provided the deep passing threats, combining for 90 receptions, 1,537 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Tight end Billy Joe Dupree contributed 34 receptions for 509 yards and 9 touchdowns. Running back Tony Dorsett had another fine season, recording a total of 1703 combined rushing and receiving yards, and scoring a total of 9 touchdowns. Fullback Robert Newhouse and halfback Preston Pearson also contributed from the offensive backfield, combining for 1,326 rushing and receiving yards, while Newhouse also scored 10 touchdowns. The Cowboys also had a superb offensive line, led by Herbert Scott and 12-time Pro Bowler Rayfield Wright

The Cowboys' "Doomsday Defense" finished the season as the top ranked defense in the league against the run by only allowing 107.6 yards per game. Pro Bowl linemen Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Harvey Martin and Randy White anchored the line, while linebackers Bob Breunig, D. D. Lewis and Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson provided solid support. Their secondary, led by safeties Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters, along with cornerbacks Benny Barnes and Aaron Kyle, combined for 16 interceptions.

The Cowboys started the regular season slowly, winning only six of their first ten games. Both the offense and the defense played ineffectively, including giving up interceptions and fumbles. But Dallas finished strong, winning their last six regular season games to post a 12-4 record.


Dallas marched through the playoffs, defeating the Atlanta Falcons, 27-20, and the Los Angeles Rams, 28-0. Meanwhile, the Steelers easily demolished the Denver Broncos, 33-10, and the Houston Oilers, 34-5.

Super Bowl pregame news and notes

Super Bowl XIII can arguably be called the greatest collection of NFL talent ever to gather for a game. In additions to Coaches Noll and Landry, 14 players would go on to enshrinement in the Hall of Fame: 9 from Pittsburgh (Bradshaw, Harris, Swann, Stallworth, Webster, Greene, Lambert, Ham, and Blount), and 5 from Dallas (Staubach, Dorsett, White, Wright, and Jackie Smith).

Much of the pregame hype surrounded Super Bowl XIII centered around Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson. Henderson caused quite a stir before the NFC Championship Game by claiming that the Rams had "no class" and the Cowboys would shut them out. His prediction turned out to be very accurate; the Cowboys did shut them out, aided by Henderson's 68-yard interception return for a touchdown.

In the days leading up the Super Bowl, Henderson began talking about the Steelers in the same manner. He predicted another shutout and then made unfriendly comments about several Pittsburgh players. He put down the talent and the intelligence of Bradshaw, proclaiming "Bradshaw couldn't spell 'cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 'a'". But the Steelers refused to get into a war of words with Henderson. Greene responded by saying the Steelers didn't need to say they were the best, they would just go out on the field and "get the job done".

Television and entertainment

The game was televised in the United States by NBC with Curt Gowdy handling play-by-play and color commentators Merlin Olsen and John Brodie. Dick Enberg served as the pregame host for the broadcast. Also helping out for NBC's coverage were Bryant Gumbel and Mike Adamle.

This was Gowdy's seventh and final Super Bowl telecast. Enberg had essentially succeeded him as NBC's lead NFL play-by-play announcer in the 1978 regular season, and network producers didn't decide until nearly the last minute which man would get the Super Bowl call.

NBC preceded the game with the first network broadcast of Black Sunday, a 1977 motion picture that depicts a terrorist attack on a fictitious Super Bowl game in the Orange Bowl between Pittsburgh and Dallas (and which utilized footage shot during Super Bowl X).

The pregame festivities featured the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and several military bands. The Colgate Thirteen performed the national anthem. The coin toss ceremony featured Pro Football Hall of Famer and longtime Chicago Bears owner/head coach George Halas.

The halftime show was a "Carnival Salute to Caribbean" with various Caribbean bands.


The radio broadcast of Super Bowl XIII was carried by the CBS Radio Network, with Jack Buck and Hank Stram calling the action.

Game summary

Both teams entered the game with the best defenses in the league (the Cowboys only allowed 107.6 rushing yards per game while the Steelers only allowed 107.8), and each side took advantage of the other team's mistakes throughout the game. But Dallas could not overcome their miscues in the second half.

On their opening drive, the Cowboys advanced to the Pittsburgh 38-yard line, with running back Tony Dorsett gaining 38 yards off 3 running plays. But they lost the ball on a fumbled handoff while attempting to fool the Steelers defense with a reverse-pass play. Receiver Drew Pearson later explained "We practiced that play for three weeks. It is designed for me to hit Billy Joe 15 to 17 yards downfield. We practiced the play so much it was unbelievable we could fumble it. I expected the handoff a bit lower, but I should have had it. Billy Joe was in the process of breaking into the clear when the fumble occurred." The play was similar to the near-turnover by Butch Johnson in the previous game.

After defensive lineman John Banaszak recovered the loose ball on the Pittsburgh 47-yard line, the Steelers attempted 2 running plays with running back Franco Harris carrying the ball, but only gained 1 yard. Then on third down, wide receiver John Stallworth caught a 12-yard pass to the Cowboys' 40-yard line. Then after throwing an incomplete pass, Terry Bradshaw completed 2 consecutive passes, the second one a 28-yard touchdown completion to Stallworth to take a 7-0 lead.

On their next drive, the Cowboys responded by advancing to the Steelers 39-yard line, but were pushed back to their own 39-yard line after quarterback Roger Staubach was sacked twice, and they were forced to punt. Then on the Steelers' ensuing drive, Bradshaw threw a 22-yard pass to Harris and followed it up with a 13-yard pass to receiver Lynn Swann to move the ball to the Dallas 30-yard line. But on the next play, Dallas linebacker D. D. Lewis ended the drive by intercepting a pass intended for Stallworth.

With a little more than a minute to go in the period, Bradshaw fumbled the ball while being sacked by Cowboys lineman Harvey Martin, and defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones recovered it. Staubach then capitalized on Bradshaw's mistake three plays later with a 39-yard scoring strike to receiver Tony Hill, tying the game at 7 as the first quarter expired. Pittsburgh sent eight men on an all-out blitz, but Staubach got the pass away just before he was hit by Steelers' safety Mike Wagner. Hill beat Donnie Shell in single-coverage and scored the only first quarter touchdown surrendered by Pittsburgh all season.

The Steelers took possession at the start of the second quarter and advanced to their own 48-yard line. Dallas linebackers Mike Hegman and Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson then combined to score a touchdown on an unusual play. After taking the snap from his 48, Bradshaw collided with Franco Harris and the ball popped loose. Bradshaw scooped it up and rolled to his right, looking to pass, but Henderson stripped the ball as Bradshaw was about to throw, and Hegman returned the fumble 37 yards for a touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 14-7 lead.

The Cowboys lead didn’t last long. On the third play of Pittsburgh's ensuing possession, Stallworth caught a pass from Bradshaw at the Steelers 35-yard line. He then broke a tackle from defensive back Aaron Kyle and outraced every other defender to the end zone, turning a simple 10-yard pass into a 75-yard touchdown completion to tie the score, 14-14. Bradshaw later explained that Stallworth was not even the primary receiver on the play: "I was going to Lynn Swann on the post," he said, "but the Cowboys covered Swann and left Stallworth open. I laid the ball out there and it should have gone for about 15 yards, but Stallworth broke the tackle and went all the way."

Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense then dominated the Dallas offense on their ensuing drive. First, Banaszak tackled fullback Robert Newhouse for 4-yard loss. Next, linebacker Jack Ham tackled Dorsett for a 3-yard loss on an attempted sweep. On third down, defensive tackle Joe Greene sacked Staubach, forcing a fumble that bounced through the hands of Steelers' defensive lineman Steve Furness. Cowboys lineman Tom Rafferty eventually recovered at the Dallas 13-yard line. Theo Bell then returned Danny White's eunsuing 38-yard punt 3 yards to the Dallas 38-yard line.

The Steelers began their ensuing drive with Bradshaw's 26-yard completion to Swann. Jones tackled Harris for an 8-yard loss on the next play, but a subsequent holding penalty on Henderson gave Pittsburgh a first down at the Dallas 25-yard line. However, after an incomplete pass and a 2-yard run by Harris, Hegman sacked Bradshaw for an 11-yard loss on third down, pushing the ball back to the 34-yard line. The Steelers then came up empty after kicker Roy Gerela's 51-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar.

With less than two minutes remaining in the half, Dallas advanced to the Pittsburgh 32-yard line, after starting from their own 34-yard line. But Pittsburgh defensive back Mel Blount intercepted a pass from Staubach and returned it 13 yards to the 29, with a personal foul on Dallas tight end Billy Joe Dupree adding another 15 yards and giving the Steelers the ball at their own 44-yard line. With time running out, Bradshaw completed 2 passes to Swann for gains of 29 and 21 yards, moving the ball to the 16-yard line with 40 seconds left in the half. Then after throwing an incomplete pass, Harris ran the ball to the 7-yard line. Then with just 26 seconds left, Bradshaw completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to fullback Rocky Bleier, giving the Steelers a 21-14 lead at halftime.

The torrid scoring pace slowed during much of the third quarter, as both teams began to assert themselves on the defensive side of the ball. But late in the quarter, a 12-yard punt return by Cowboys receiver Butch Johnson gave Dallas good field position on their 42-yard line. The Cowboys subsequently drove down to the Steelers 10-yard line, mostly with Dorsett's rushing. Then on third down with less than three minutes remaining in the period, Staubach spotted 38-year old reserve tight end Jackie Smith wide open in the end zone and threw him the ball. The pass was a little behind Smith, but it was catchable. However, Smith dropped the pass and the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal from kicker Rafael Septien, cutting their deficit to 21-17. Though Smith played 16 years in the league and is now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he is perhaps best known for his embarrassing blunder on the sport's biggest stage.

Two controversial penalties early in the fourth quarter paved the way for the Steelers to score 14 unanswered points. The Steelers advanced to their own 44-yard line after a crucial 3rd down pass from Bradshaw to tight end Randy Grossman, a 13-yard pass to Swann, and a 5-yard run by Harris. Bradshaw then attempted a pass to Swann, but the receiver collided with Cowboys defensive back Benny Barnes and fell to the ground as the ball rolled incomplete. However, official Fred Swearingen called Barnes for pass interference. Replays showed that it could have been incidental contact. The penalty gave Pittsburgh a first down at Dallas' 23-yard line.

Two plays later, the Steelers faced 3rd down and 4 from the Dallas 17. Henderson sacked Bradshaw for a 12-yard loss, but the play was nullified by a delay of game penalty on Pittsburgh, bringing up 3rd down and 9 instead of a fourth down. Replays clearly showed the whistle blew before the play's onset, plus most of the players pulled up and stopped playing after a whistle sounded, but Henderson claimed, "I didn't hear a whistle until after I had knocked Bradshaw down." Franco Harris confronted Henderson for taunting Bradshaw after the whistle, and on the next play, Bradshaw handed the ball off to Harris, who raced untouched up the middle for a 22-yard touchdown run. The score increased Pittsburgh's lead to 28-17.

The ensuing squib kickoff by Gerela bounced to Cowboy lineman Randy White at the 24-yard line. White, who was playing the game with a cast on his broken left hand, fumbled the ball after being hit by Tony Dungy and Pittsburgh linebacker Dennis Winston recovered the ball at the Dallas 18-yard line. On the next play, Bradshaw threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Swann, increasing the Steelers' lead to 35-17 with less than 7 minutes left in the game.

Although the game seemed decided, the Cowboys refused to give up. On their next drive, Dallas drove 89 yards in 8 plays to score on Staubach's 7-yard touchdown pass to Dupree. Then after Dallas' Dennis Thurman recovered an onside kick at 2:19, Drew Pearson caught 2 passes for gains of 22 and 25 yards as the Cowboys drove 52 yards in 9 plays to score on Staubach's 4-yard touchdown pass to Butch Johnson. With the ensuing extra point, the score was cut to 35-31 with just 0:22 left in the game.

But the Cowboys' second onside kick attempt was unsuccessful. Bleier recovered the ball and the Steelers were able to run out the clock to win the game.

Swann was the leading receiver in the game with 7 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. Stallworth recorded 115 yards and a touchdown off just 3 receptions. Stallworth and Swann became the first pair of teammates to each have 100 yards receiving in a Super Bowl and first time two receivers did it in the same game. Dorsett was the top rusher of the game with 96 rushing yards, and also caught 5 passes for 44 yards. Harris was Pittsburgh's leading rusher with 68 yards, and he caught a pass for 22 yards. Staubach finished the game with exactly as many passing attempts (30) and completions (17) as Bradshaw, good for 228 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Butch Johnson caught 2 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, returned 3 kickoffs for 63 yards, and gained 33 yards on 2 punt returns, giving him 126 total yards.

Scoring summary

  • PIT - TD: John Stallworth 28 yard pass from Terry Bradshaw (Roy Gerela kick) 7-0 PIT
  • DAL - TD: Tony Hill 39 yard pass from Roger Staubach (Rafael Septien kick) 7-7 tie
  • DAL - TD: Mike Hegman 37 yard fumble return (Rafael Septien kick) 14-7 DAL
  • PIT - TD: John Stallworth 75 yard pass from Terry Bradshaw (Roy Gerela kick) 14-14 tie
  • PIT - TD: Rocky Bleier 7 yard pass from Terry Bradshaw (Roy Gerela kick) 21-14 PIT
  • DAL - FG: Rafael Septien 27 yards 21-17 PIT
  • PIT - TD: Franco Harris 22 yard run (Roy Gerela kick) 28-17 PIT
  • PIT - TD: Lynn Swann 18 yard pass from Terry Bradshaw (Roy Gerela kick) 35-17 PIT
  • DAL - TD: Billy Joe DuPree 7 yard pass from Roger Staubach (Rafael Septien kick) 35-24 PIT
  • DAL - TD: Butch Johnson 4 yard pass from Roger Staubach (Rafael Septien kick) 35-31 PIT


It's 3rd down and 3, Dallas at the Pittsburgh 10...Roger back to throw, has a man open in the end zone...caught! Touchdown...DROPPED! Dropped in the end zone, Jackie Smith all by himself. Aw, bless his heart, he's got to be the sickest man in America.

  • Verne Lundquist, play-by-play broadcaster on the Dallas Cowboy radio broadcast, on a failed touchdown pass that went in-and-out of Jackie Smith's hands in the end zone, which could have won the game for the Cowboys.

Starting lineups

         Pittsburgh                         Dallas
         John Stallworth 82    WR       Tony Hill 80
         Jon Kolb 55           LT       Pat Donovan 67
         Sam Davis 57          LG       Herbert Scott 68
         Mike Webster 52        C       John Fitzgerald 62
         Gerry Mullins 72      RG       Tom Rafferty 64
         Ray Pinney 74         RT       Rayfield Wright 70
         Randy Grossman 84     TE       Billy Joe Dupree 89
         Lynn Swann 88         WR       Drew Pearson 88
         Terry Bradshaw 12     QB       Roger Staubach 12
         Rocky Bleier 20       FB       Robert Newhouse 44
         Franco Harris 32      RB       Tony Dorsett 33
         L.C. Greenwood 68     LE       Ed "Too Tall" Jones 72
         Joe Greene 75         DT       Larry Cole 63
         Steve Furness 64      DT       Randy White 54
         John Banaszak 76      RE       Harvey Martin 79
         Jack Ham 59          LLB       Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson 56
         Jack Lambert 58      MLB       Bob Breunig 53
         Loren Toews 51       RLB       D. D. Lewis 50
         Ron Johnson 29       LCB       Benny Barnes 31
         Mel Blount 47        RCB       Aaron Kyle 25
         Donnie Shell 31       SS       Charlie Waters 41
         Mike Wagner 23        FS       Cliff Harris 43


Weather conditions

  • 71 degrees, cloudy

See also


  • Super Bowl official website
  • 2006 NFL Record and Fact Book. Time Inc. Home Entertainment. ISBN 1-933405-32-5.
  • Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. Harper Collins. ISBN 1-933405-32-5.
  • The Official NFL Encyclopedia Pro Football. NAL Books. ISBN 0-453-00431-8.
  • The Sporting News Complete Super Bowl Book 1995. ISBN 0-89204-523-X.
  • - Large online database of NFL data and statistics
  • Super Bowl play-by-plays from USA Today (Last accessed September 28, 2005)
  • All-Time Super Bowl Odds from The Sports Network (Last accessed October 16, 2005)

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