MINNESOTA VIKINGS VS. PITTSBURGH STEELERS SUPER BOWL IX STEELERS ON THE RISE Precedent said that experienced teams would beat first-timers, but precedent hadn't yet met up with the youngsters from Pittsburgh

January 02, 1989

SUPER BOWL IX, STEELERS versus Vikings, was the last one ever
played in Tulane Stadium. Which was fine with me, because for the
first and only time in my life I got my pocket picked.
It happened right on the field, in the mob scene that developed
when almost the entire press corps was heading for the Pittsburgh
locker room after the Steelers' 16-6 victory. Talk about mixed
emotions. I was happy the Steelers had won, because that was the team
I'd hung with all week. But, of course, there was the shock that
comes with the realization that your wallet is gone.
The Stadium Authority had a pickpocket bureau to handle such
problems. ''You won't get the money back, but your wallet and credit
cards will be recovered, and we'll send them to you. You should
receive them by Wednesday,'' the lady told me. ''They only want the
cash.'' I asked her how she knew all that.
''Honey,'' she said. ''This is the pickpocket capital of the
I did get the wallet back on Wednesday, but I've never felt the
same about good old New Orleans.
There was a formula about picking Super Bowl winners in those
days. Repeating teams always beat first-timers. So far they had done
it five out of five. For that reason the chartheads slavishly took
Minnesota, a three-point underdog. The oddsmakers weren't fooled by
The Steelers were young and a little flaky. They had 14 rookies on
the squad, three of them starters. Experience always wins. Another
venerated formula. Of course, what people didn't realize at the time
was that those first-year players were the greatest rookie crop in
history. Five of them (Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert,
Mike Webster and Donnie Shell) eventually made a total of 29 Pro Bowl
appearances. All of them could wind up in the Hall of Fame.
This was the Super Bowl in which Art Rooney was discovered, and
the national media found out what many of us knew, that yes, he
really was the nicest man in football. The Steelers were good
talkers: Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene and center Ray Mansfield --
who hollered to the writers, ''Don't go, there's more to tell
you,'' after the first interview session.
Franco Harris set a rushing record -- 158 yards on 34 carries --
against the Vikings and got the MVP car, but my choice was defensive
left end L.C. Greenwood. (Pete Rozelle's famous line at the next
draft meeting, when Minnesota got its pick in late: ''Minnesota
passes -- and L.C. Greenwood knocks it down.'')
Here's what I'll always remember about the Vikings in that game.
They were down 9-0 in the fourth quarter, and their running game had
been stuffed as no team's runners ever had been before -- 16 of the
20 runs they'd called had picked up two yards or less -- and now they
were on the Steelers' five- yard line, and what did their brain trust
do? They sent in two tight ends in a goal-line offense and tried to
punch it in. Gimme a break. Chuck Foreman fumbled on the first carry,
a two-yard loss. The Vikings blocked a punt for their only score;
they were good at things like that. Pittsburgh drove on them to put
the game away. Goodbye, experience.
Minnesota had been held to 17 yards rushing, a record low. This
was announced after most writers had filed their stories. The NFL's
massive stat crew had blown it, crediting Foreman with a two-yard
gain instead of a loss on one play, and had come up with 21 yards.
This was corrected at 10 p.m. The Vikings even embarrassed the
numbers guys.

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