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Super Bowl XIV at Rose Bowl: Rams come close but can’t topple Steelers’ dynasty

Steelers running back Franco Harris (32) holds up the football as Terry Bradshaw (12) and Sidney Thornton (38) celebrate
Franco Harris (32) holds up the football as teammates Terry Bradshaw (12) and Sidney Thornton (38), partially hidden, raise their arms after Harris scored the Steelers’ final touchdown in fourth quarter of Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl.
(Associated Press)
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Fourth in a series looking back at the seven Super Bowls held in the Los Angeles area. Terry Bradshaw has vivid memories of that 1980 day at the Rose Bowl, and Rams can remember observing an unnerved Steelers quarterback:

Terry Bradshaw already had helped Pittsburgh win three rings — three more than the Los Angeles Rams had — and yet it was the Steelers quarterback who felt like a wide-eyed rookie as he stood on the Rose Bowl field before Super Bowl XIV.

Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood, playing on a fractured left fibula, jogged over to him at midfield during pregame warmups, happy as a puppy.

“Hey, man, isn’t this great?” Youngblood said. “Look at this crowd.”

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“Yeah, yeah, it’s great, Jack,” said Bradshaw, recalling the pleasant exchange 42 years later. The two hugged and returned to their teams.

“I was thinking, ‘[Shoot], he doesn’t have a care in the world,’” Bradshaw said. “That was really unnerving.”

Conversely, Bradshaw was a mess. He hadn’t slept well all week, not just because he was preparing for the Super Bowl, but also because the Rams had three former Steelers assistants on their coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Bud Carson.

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann (88) and quarterback Terry Bradshaw (12) look on during Super Bowl XIV.
(Suzanne Vlamis / Associated Press)

“I never could complete a pass against Bud’s defense in practice, let alone the Super Bowl,” Bradshaw said.

So here was one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history, and he couldn’t even unclench to enjoy the week leading up to the game in Southern California, or a postcard day in Pasadena. Instead he had a tension headache that would swell to a migraine by game’s end.

But that was nothing new for Bradshaw, now a Fox Sports NFL analyst.

“During the season, my mind was always on the opponent,” he said. “I never could free myself from that. Get up early and be at the stadium. Stay all day, get home at 8:30 or 9, eat a can of soup with some crackers, go to bed. Then, get up at 5:30 in the morning and take off again.

“I knew the game plan inside and out. I didn’t want to stumble. What was that old song? ‘Don’t walk on the rocks that I stumbled on?’ I didn’t want to make other peoples’ mistakes.”

Hall of Fame Rams tackle Jackie Slater caught an up-close glimpse of how stressed Bradshaw was during the game.

“I remember throwing a block, rolling over and finishing up the fall, and I ended up on their sideline,” Slater said. “I looked up and saw Terry Bradshaw’s face. All I could see was a man who thought he’d been beaten.

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann (88) rests briefly on shoulder of Rams defender Pat Thomas (27)
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann (88) rests briefly on shoulder of Los Angeles Rams defender Pat Thomas (27) after making catch during third quarter of Super Bowl XIV.
(Associated Press)

“I’ve told him, ‘I’m one of the few people that can remember what you looked like when you were standing there silent, thinking you were getting ready to lose the Super Bowl.’”

The Steelers didn’t lose, however. They trailed the Rams by two points at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but scored two unanswered touchdowns to win 31-19. Despite three interceptions, Bradshaw was named the game’s most valuable player.

But the game was a strong showing by the Rams, whose defense was led by the Youngbloods — both Hall of Famer Jack and unrelated linebacker Jim — Fred Dryer, Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds and Nolan Cromwell.

“I felt as though we could win this thing,” said Jack Youngblood, whose team reached the postseason despite a ho-hum 9-7 record. “We could play with them, put it that way. And we did — for three quarters.”

Youngblood playing on a broken lower leg was the stuff of legend. It was taped up so he was OK running forward and backward, but ran into problems when he tried to move laterally.

“I look back and that decision and I kind of question myself now at 72,” he said. “I’m going, that wasn’t awfully smart. But it had healed up by the next training camp.”

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Everything you need to know about the 2022 Super Bowl, including teams, start time, location, TV channel, streaming options and halftime show.

But the sting of losing that game lingers, not just for Youngblood but for teammates such as quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who replaced the injured Pat Haden during the season and led the Rams to six victories in their final seven games.

Even though it was essentially a home game for the Rams, the record crowd of 103,985 was at least half Steelers fans. The place pulsed with energy.

Todd Haley, who would go on to become an NFL head coach, was a Steelers water boy in that game, as his father, Dick, was the team’s top personnel executive.

“What I remember is just the spectacle of the Rose Bowl,” the younger Haley said. “They gave everybody placards — blue for the Rams, and gold for the Steelers — and everybody held them up. When you were down on the field and looking up, it was unbelievable. Half the stadium was gold, and the other half was blue.”

At times for Ferragamo, it all felt like an out-of-body experience. He found himself lost in the moment and watching the Steelers quarterback the way a fan would.

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Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo watches his pass as he gets pulled down by Pittsburgh Steelers' Jack Lambert.
(Associated Press)

“Terry Bradshaw was like a role model to me,” he said. “I would look at his film, diagnose what he would try to do, and try to replicate how he would do things. He just had that pizazz, that charisma that I loved, that spirit and gunslinger attitude. It was beautiful.”

The signature play of that Super Bowl was a 73-yard touchdown from Bradshaw to Hall of Fame receiver John Stallworth on “60 Prevent Slot Hook and Go,” a route down the middle, and although the ball was inches away from being tipped away by a safety, it found its target as if dropped by a drone.

“It never worked in practice,” Stallworth said. “So when we called it a game, it wasn’t like I said, ‘Oh, wow. We finally got to it. Here we go.’ I don’t think any of us were too excited about it. But it was the perfect play for the coverage they were playing.”

When the 80-member Ana-Hi-Steppers, the drill team at Anaheim High, performed at halftime of the first Super Bowl, they couldn’t have realized how big the event would become.

That gave the Steelers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. By game’s end, their quarterback could exhale.

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“I tried to find my mom and dad, I knew where they were sitting,” Bradshaw said, his voice choking with emotion as he remembered the final moments. “I remember when I went up to the line of scrimmage, and this is the dead truth, I remember thinking, ‘OK, we’ve won it. This is probably going to be our last Super Bowl together.’

“I looked around to savor this incredible moment. It was such a relief, such joy rushing through me for such a hard game. It was just so overwhelming.”

Youngblood was right: It was great.

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