The rebuilding of a long dormant franchise began in 1969 with the hiring of former Baltimore assistant Chuck Noll finally came to fruition in its fourth year. After winning only one game in his first year in 1969 the team after steady improvement broke through in 1972 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1947 when they lost a Eastern Conference playoff to Philadelphia 21-0. The division title was the first in its history as was the appearance in the AFC Championship game which they lost to the undefeated Miami Dolphins 21-17. This is a look back at some of the memorable moments from the 1972 Steelers.
September 17, 1972 Three Rivers Stadium Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh 34 Oakland 28: In their coming out party against the powerful Oakland Raiders the Steelers jumped out to a 27-7 after three quarters before holding on for a 34-28 victory. The Steelers got going in the first quarter when middle linebacker Henry Davis blocked a Jerry DePoyster punt and returned it 5-yards for the first score of the game. Terry Bradshaw scored the second touchdown on a 20-yard quarterback draw making it 14-0 after one quarter. In the second quarter Roy Gerala kicked a 48-yard field goal making it 17-0Steelers at that point. The only Raiders score of the first half occurred when George Blanda came off the bench for an ineffective ken Stabler threw a 26-yard scoring pass to Raymond Chester.
The Steelers went up 27-7 in the third quarter when Gerala added a eight-yard field goal and Bradshaw scooted in for his second touchdown of the day from the two. Former starting quarterback for the Raiders Daryle Lamonica came off the bench to rally the SiIver and Black but it was to little to late. Lamonica hit Mike SIani for two fourth quarter touchdown passes of 24 and 70 yards to eventually cut the deficit to six points. Don Highsmith added a one-yard fourth quarter rushing touchdown as well. The Steelers got their final touchdown as in the fourth quarter when Bradshaw hit Al Young on a 57-yard scoring pass for what turned out to be the difference, Both Bradshaw and Stabler had three interceptions apiece on the day.
October 1, 1972 Busch Memorial Stadium St. Louis, MO: Pittsburgh 25 St. Louis 19: Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw hit Frank Lewis dow the sideline on a 38-yard scoring pass with 1:08 left in the game for the winning score. This came after the Cardinals took the lead with 3:03 left on a Norm Thompson blocked a Bobby Walden punt and took it in for the easy score. Three Roy Gerala field goals of 17, 20, and 15 yards helped the Steelers cause. Bradshaw had another rushing touchdown from a yard out in the second quarter. Ralph Anderson of the Steelers tackled Cardinals running back Donny Andersonin the end zone for a safety making it 15-3 Steelers at that point.
The Cardinals Dale Hackbart intercepted a Bradshaw pass in the second quarter that led to the second Jim Bakken field goal in the first of 44-yards. Bakken’s field goal was on the last play of the half and earlier in the quarter connected from 19-yards out as well. In the third quarter Anderson of the Cardinals scored the left side on a eight-yard run making the score 15-12. Cardinals quarterback Gary Cuozzo three four interceptions on the day which hurt the Cardinals attack.
November 12, 1972 Three Rivers Stadium Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh 16 Kansas City 7: In a changing of the guard in the NFL Kansas City representing the old guard against the new guard Pittsburgh. In a fierce defensive battle before the Steelers got the upper hand in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs despite an ineffective offense got on the board first when Jim Kearney returned a Terry Bradshaw interception 65-yards for a 7-0 lead. Three second half field goals by Steelers kicker Roy Gerala in the second half from 25, 10, and 49 yards in the second half made the score 9-7. Steelers linebacker Jack Ham recovering his second fumble of the fourth quarter this time courtesy of Jim Otis allowed Pittsburgh to put the game away. Two plays later Franco Harris ran it from the seven to finish off the Chiefs. Bradshaw threw three interceptions and two fumbles which kept the game close. Jack Ham recovered two fumbles which setup the last 10 points of the game.
December 23, 1972 Three Rivers Stadium Pittsburgh, PA: AFC Divisional Playoffs: Pittsburgh 13 Oakland 7: In a game in which the ending had been one of the most unbelievable endings ever and one of the most controversial ever. The final touchdown came on fourth-and-22 at the Pittsburgh 40 when Terry Bradshaw scrambled around and threw a ball that hit Jack Tatum of the Raiders and John Fuqua at the same time. The ball bounced off them and Franco Harris trailing on the play picked it up before it hit the ground and ran in for the winning score. After much discussion the officials ruled it a touchdown. In the NFL at the time didn’t allow a ball to be tipped by one offensive player to another. No one knew for sure who touched the ball first so the play stood,
The game was a defensive battle till the crazy ending with the Raiders holding a 7-6 lead. Two Roy Gerela field goals of 18 and 29 yards in the second half was the only scoring in the game. However with 1:13 left in the game backup Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler ran down the left sideline for 30 yards giving Oakland its only lead of the game.
Overall it was a great season for the Steelers who in two years would finally get the elusive championship. Pittsburgh would go onto win four championships in six seasons over the last half of the 1970’s.
1972 Pittsburgh Steelers John Schaefer
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