Super Bowl Anthology: Super Bowl X

By Nick Shook
Special to
View full anthology package here


Lynn Swann’s Pittsburgh Steelers sat atop professional football’s throne in America’s 200th year of existence, 1976. Coming off a 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX, the Steelers were the defending champions and one of football’s two most-popular franchises. Along with wide receiver John Stallworth, Swann was the star of a passing attack led by quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

Pittsburgh took the Miami Orange Bowl turf prepared to win a second straight world championship. At the other end of the field stood America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys. After three quarters, Dallas looked poised to take home the title.

An unseating of the reigning champions wasn’t going to come easy.

After kicking a 36-yard field goal to grab a slim 12-10 lead, Pittsburgh took the field with 4:25 left to play. The Steelers faced a third and 6 from their 36-yard line when Bradshaw dropped back and heaved a deep pass to Swann. The acrobatic receiver caught the ball at the 5-yard line as defensive back Mark Washington fell in a vain attempt at a tackle and Swann trotted into the end zone, tossing the ball over his shoulder and raising his arms in celebration.

Swann finished the game with 161 receiving yards and a touchdown, good for Super Bowl X Most Valuable Player.

Swann recalled the Steelers’ second world championship to Nick Shook at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

‘Well for us, it was staying in the routine. We had learned that from the first Super Bowl, that having a good routine helps youin your preparation. You don’t really have to think about a lot. You just stick to the routine, stick to the plan, and things will take care of themselves.’

‘You always hope you’re ready for the unexpected when you play a football game, because it’s kind of like semi-choreographed dance. You’ve got a play you want to run, but you have to alter your course sometimes because of what the defense does. So, you adjust and maybe sometimes have to be a little more creative, or that kind of thing, but you really stick to the routine, try and keep your focus, try and not lose any energy prior to the game.’

‘The setting was normalized, only because we were in Miami, but for us, it could have been Pittsburgh or any other place because again, we stuck to the routine. It was the same thing: Pregame meal at the same time, four hours before the game, on the early bus, get to the stadium, get dressed, get taped, get ready, get focused, go play.’

‘The morning of the day was really to go play and to get out there, contribute to the team, make it happen. The hope was that I’d play up, play well and do the things the team wanted me to do.’

‘I always have butterflies. That part (laughs), that’s not new. Fred Biletnikoff used to throw up before every game, and he did that his entire career. My butterflies weren’t that bad.’

(Thoughts lining up before that memorable play…)

‘You focus on running the route, you focus on what the defense is that you’re going against and how it’s set up, and if you have to make an adjustment because of how they’re playing, and the rest is just practice. It’s discipline and make the catch.’

‘You don’t think about those things. Every time you go out and catch a pass, you hope you’re going to score. You think you’ll break a tackle, catch the ball, find a seam and get to the end zone. I was able to get to the end zone later on in the ball game. That worked out well, and it was probably pretty easy, since it was a long pass and after I caught it, Mark Washington had kind of made a play for the ball, and for me, I stepped out of the tackle and the end zone wasn’t far away.’

(On how many times people have asked him about the catch…)

‘Oh, a few times (laughs).’

‘They’re all good. You win them, you go play and you win them. It’s great. To be MVP of the Super Bowl, it’s just, it’s a little icing on the cake. But you owe all of that to your teammates for giving you the platform.’


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