Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Steelers vs. Cowboys - Historic Rivalry Renewed

The Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Does anymore really need to be said? This is NFL history. This is NFL greatness.

Big D. Cowboys Stadium and the Ring of Honor.
The Confluence of Three Rivers. Heinz Field. The Blast Furnace.

The star on the helmet.
The hypocycloid symbol of steel on the helmet.

The Hat. The Hair. Jerry Jones.
Noll. Cowher Power. The Coolest Coach in the NFL. The Rooneys.

Eight Super Bowls. Five wins.
Eight Super Bowls. Six wins.

Team of the 90's.
Team of the 70's.

15-15 in all-time head-to-head meetings.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
...ok, ya got us there.

Sunday will see two of the most storied NFL franchises butt heads again when the Steelers travel to Arlington, Texas to face the Cowboys.

The teams that boast 35 (primary) Hall of Famers and 11 Super Bowl rings renew what is quite possibly the best rivalry in the NFL. All respect due to the Bears and Packers, the Raiders and Chargers, the Cowboys and Redskins and the Steelers and Browns, this is as good as it gets because three of those meeting have been for NFL supremacy.

Each Super Bowl battle was historic unto itself. Each had all the pomp and circumstance befitting royalty and all the bad blood befitting the Hatfields and the McCoys.

In Steelers-Cowboys I, there was the 64-yard touchdown pass by Terry Bradshaw, a split-second before Cowboys defensive tackle Larry Cole buried him, to wide receiver Lynn Swann that sealed the win. It is still considered one of the greatest passes in NFL playoffs history. -

There was Jack Lambert treating Cliff Harris like his son. I will never get tired of watching that. Never. -

They had their share of comedy too.

Before Super Bowl XIII, Steelers-Cowboys II, who could forget Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson famously calling Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw so dumb that he couldn't "spell 'cat' if you spotted him the C and the T?" I know our dearly departed friend Michele couldn't.

Bradshaw got his revenge by torching the Cowboys, going 17 for 30 for a then-record 318 yards, his first 300-passing game, and four touchdowns in a 35-31 win. Bradshaw, Michele's favorite player, won the Most Valuable Player award. -

After the game when Henderson was asked about his comments, he said that he said Bradshaw was dumb, not that he couldn't play.

Play he did, saving his best performances for the big games. Bradshaw passed for more than 300 yards in a game only seven times, but three of those came in the post-season, and two of those in Super Bowls.

In four career Super Bowl appearances, he passed for 932 yards and 9 touchdowns, both Super Bowl records at the time of his retirement. In 19 postseason games, he completed 261 passes for 3,833 yards.

His counterpart during that time was Roger Staubach. An All-American and Heisman Trophy winner (1963), Roger the Dodger was a true leader, guiding the Cowboys to four Super Bowls and nine consecutive winning seasons. Also known as "Captain Comeback," he was once described by long-time Cowboys head coach Tom Landry as "possibly the best combination of a passer, an athlete and a leader to ever play in the NFL."

Both teams were known just as much for their defenses, though. The "Doomsday Defense" in Dallas and the "Steel Curtain" in Pittsburgh terrorized offenses.

Men like Bob Lilly, Ed "Too Tall" Jones and the only two defensive players to win Super Bowl co-MVP honors: defensive tackle Randy "Manster" White and defensive end Harvey Martin.

Names like "Mean" Joe Greene, "Captain" Jack Lambert, and NFL-rules changer, Mel Blount. The only three men to win consecutive NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards (1974-1976).

While each team took a step back in the 1980s, only two conference championship games between them, each saw a resurgence of their prominence and their rivalry in the 1990s.

The Cowboys became dominant first when oil magnate Jerry Jones purchased the Cowboys from H.R. Bright. Soon after, Jones fired the legendary Landry, to that point the only coach in the team's history, in favor of his former Arkansas Razorback teammate, Jimmy Johnson. He then forced out longtime general manager Tex Schramm, and assumed complete control.

Johnson had an ability to find talent in the draft and to make savvy trades. Specifically, he orchestrated maybe the greatest (or worst, depending on which side you were on) trade ever with the trade of Herschel Walker. The trade yielded six high draft picks and a number of players, 11 players in all, from the Minnesota Vikings.

That trade gave birth to "triplets", quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and a reunion with Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Michael Irvin. The boys were back.

The Steelers resurrection wasn't the hostile takeover that was seen in Dallas. The Rooneys never lost control of the Steelers and Chuck Noll bowed out gracefully. In came "The Chin," Bill Cowher.

Cowher started to win right away. He still had Noll's players, but he infused new life into the team and into the franchise.

In his first four years, Cowher went 43-21 and captained his '95 team to a spot in Super Bowl XXX against (who else?) the Cowboys. Steelers-Cowboys III was a loss, but it had it's moments as well.

Steelers linebacker and resident enforcer Greg Lloyd announced on national television that he and his teammates needed to go down to Arizona and get...well, listen for yourself:

Then, there was Cowboy's gun-for-hire Deion "Primetime" Sanders who said that he wouldn't be shown up by Steelers wide receiver/quarterback/half back Kordell Stewart. He jokingly said that he wanted to do everything "Slash" did. "If he punts," Primetime said, "I want to punt."

After falling behind early in what looked to be another NFC Super Bowl blowout, the Steelers started to establish their ground game and come back.

Rod Woodson had already informed Michael Irvin that he was there to play, and Emmitt Smith had half of his 49 rushing yards on one play. Now Bam Morris was starting to run roughshod over them, pulling the Steelers to 20-17.

Then the unthinkable happened, providing the most lasting memory by a certain quarterback who inexplicably...he...I'm sorry, I just can't. Watch for yourself what happened for SECOND time in the game in the SAME way in the SAME area of the field to the SAME player:

After that "MVP" performance, Larry Brown left the Cowboys and went into the NFL's version of the Witness Protection Program at the time, the Oakland Raiders. As alluded to, he was never heard from again.

I'm over it, though. Mainly because I killed the quarterback in question in January of 2006 to memorialize the event.

The rivalry was renewed after seven years apart in 2004 with the Steelers completing that comeback, 24-20.

Though the names have changed, the mystique and pomp haven't. Nor has the bad blood...or the desire for bragging rights.

Steelers quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger, who is re-writing the Steelers record book, said Wednesday that "if the Cowboys are 'America's Team' then the Steelers are 'The World's Team'."

Then James Harrison, Steelers latest scary linebacker, accused Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who's done some erasing of his own to Dallas' record book, of mocking the Steelers four years ago in the Steelers 20-13 win in 2008. -

Yes, it's still the Cowboys and Steelers. 'Nuff said.