Steelers Cut Off at Pass : Other Corner Steals Show for Cowboys

From Associated Press

Those limo-riding glamour boys from Dallas backed up their bluster, but barely.

And they can thank one of their least glamorous players, Larry Brown, for their third Super Bowl victory in four years.

The Cowboys defeated Pittsburgh, 27-17, Sunday to extend the NFC’s streak of victories in the NFL’s showcase game to an even dozen.

And while Troy Aikman, Emmitt Brown and Michael Irvin all had their moments, the biggest moment was reserved for Brown, the right cornerback overshadowed by the spotlight on left corner, a guy named Deion Sanders.


Brown came up with two interceptions at moments when Pittsburgh was just about to take control of the game and was named the Super Bowl’s most valuable player.

His 43-yard return in the third quarter of Neil O’Donnell’s pass set up a one-yard touchdown run by Smith that put Dallas up, 20-7, after Pittsburgh, which fell behind, 13-0, seemed ready to take the lead.

Then, after Pittsburgh had closed to 20-17 and had the ball with four minutes left, Brown, just as he did to seal the NFC championship game with Green Bay, made another interception, returning it 34 yards to set up another Smith touchdown run, this one of four yards.

Only then did the Cowboys and Coach Barry Switzer celebrate a struggle of Super Bowl victory that capped a struggle of a season. And the hugs in the end zone reflected relief more than the “in-your-face” braggadocio with which the Cowboys faced Super Bowl week.

Dallas controlled the first half, with help from O’Donnell, the Pittsburgh quarterback who was high and outside most of the time, even on his completions.

But while they scored on their first two possessions, they could convert those only into 13 points, leaving the Steelers within striking range, even with O’Donnell struggling so much.


Then the Steelers, as they have so often, scored in the last two minutes, turning it into a 13-7 game.

But while the Dallas offense fizzled, the defense didn’t, particularly Brown, who joined Miami’s Jake Scott 13 years ago as the only other defensive back to win a Super Bowl MVP trophy. And that was enough for Dallas to join San Francisco as the second team to win five Super Bowls.

Pittsburgh, which won four Super Bowls during the 1970s, lost for the first time in five appearances.

Dallas’ victory also bailed out Switzer, who took over from Jimmy Johnson two years ago after Johnson and Dallas owner Jerry Jones had their well-publicized divorce. Switzer thus joined Johnson as the only coaches to win both college and pro championships despite a season of gaffes that left him labeled “Bozo the Coach.”

Switzer joined the Cowboys in a no-win situation--only a Super Bowl victory could guarantee success.

He celebrated with Jones on the field, shouting “We did it our way, baby! We did it! We did it! We did it! We did it!”


Pittsburgh reached the Dallas 33 on the first possession of the second half. But on fourth and 8, Coach Bill Cowher elected to punt and Rohn Stark’s kick carried into the end zone, giving Dallas the ball on the 20.

Dallas didn’t move on offense, but then the defense turned the game.

On a third and 9 from the Pittsburgh 48, Dallas’ Bill Bates blitzed, both Steelers receivers turned inside, and O’Donnell threw outside, right to Brown. He returned it 44 yards to the Pittsburgh 18.

On the first play, Aikman hit Irvin at the 1, and Smith went over on the next play.

Norm Johnson’s 46-yard field goal 3:40 into the fourth quarter cut it to 20-10 after Tony Tolbert’s sack of O’Donnell on third and eight at the 19 stopped Pittsburgh’s next drive.

But then came a surprise onside kick by Johnson, recovered by Deon Figures at his 48. Nine plays later, Bam Morris went over from a yard out and suddenly it was 20-17 with 6:36 left.

The Steelers got the ball back with 4:15 left at their own 32. After an incompletion, O’Donnell threw the pass that Brown intercepted, setting up the clinching touchdown.

The Cowboys dominated the first half, scoring on their first three possessions on a field where footing was never too sure.


But they led only 13-7 at halftime when O’Donnell, shaky for most of the first two periods, hit Yancey Thigpen from six yards out with 13 seconds left before intermission. It was the 10th time in the last 12 games the Steelers had scored in the last two minutes of the first half.

Dallas took a 3-0 lead on Chris Boniol’s 42-yard field goal on the game’s first possession. It could have been more--Aikman hit Irvin for 20 yards and Smith broke loose for 23 yards before the Pittsburgh defense stiffened, holding Kevin Williams to two yards on a reverse on third and eight.

The Cowboys came right back on their next possession, with Aikman hitting Sanders for 47 yards against Willie Williams to set up the score, a three-yard pass to Jay Novacek--set up by an apparent illegal pick. One play earlier, Aikman had hit Novacek on a third and nine from the 13.

At that point, Dallas had outgained Pittsburgh, 127-9.

The Steelers finally got an offense going, but it was a plodding one, converting a fourth and inches on Kordell Stewart’s sneak, then getting to the Dallas 36 on an 11-yard third-down pass from O’Donnell to Ernie Mills. But on the next play, Dermontti Dawson’s snap was over O’Donnell’s head and the 13-yard loss effectively stopped the drive.

Dallas made it 13-0 on Boniol’s 35-yard field goal after a drive from its own 20 to the Pittsburgh 18 that consumed 8:44 of the second quarter. But Irvin was called for offensive pass interference on an apparent touchdown pass, then Dallas went wide on third and one from the 15 and Levon Kirkland dumped Smith for a three-yard loss.

Pittsburgh finally got its first score by going 54 yards in 13 plays in the final 3:52 of the half.


The key was a 19-yard pass from O’Donnell to Andre Hastings on a third and 20 from the Pittsburgh 36 and an 18-yarder to Mills to the 6. On the next play, Thigpen slanted inside Sanders, and O’Donnell found him in the front of the end zone.