This is part of a five-part series by Victory Bell Rings on the ten greatest performances by Penn State players in Super Bowl history. You can catch up by following the links below.
4. Jack Ham – Linebacker, 1979, Pittsburgh Steelers: Super Bowl XIII was the first rematch in the game’s history as the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Dallas Cowboys at the Orange Bowl in Miami, FL. Pittsburgh won 35-31 behind MVP Terry Bradshaw, who threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns. Interesting notes: 1) Both Dallas and Pittsburgh were trying to become the first team ever to win three Super Bowls. 2) Future Hall of Famers involved in the game included 14 players, both head coaches, and four front-office personnel. 3) Dallas is the only team, to date, that scored 30 points and lost in Super Bowl history.
Jack Ham, drafted in the 2nd round (34th overall) in the 1971 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a member of the College and Pro Football Hall of Fames. In this game, featuring the league’s two best defenses, Ham’s efforts stood out as he recorded eight unassisted tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass deflection. Remember, as pointed out in the introduction, 70s-era Super Bowls had around 20% less offensive plays than current day Super Bowls. Even so, Ham’s efforts would put him in the top ten statistically in all Super Bowls played since the 2000 season.
Ham was squared up against Tony Dorsett for the majority of the game, trying to slow down one of the league’s most powerful runners. His first three tackles were all made stopping Dorsett, including a big tackle for a three yard loss on Dallas’ first possession after Pittsburgh tied the game 14-14.After gaining 38 yards on his first three carries, Dorsett was bottled up by Ham and the Steel Curtain; he only gained nine yards on his next four carries going into halftime. Fittingly, his last tackle of the game, and eight unassisted tackle of the game, was also on Dorsett.
One of the praises you always hear about Jack Ham was his ability to play against the run and defend against the pass, a rarity in that time. Ham showed his abilities in the Super Bowl making two tackles while in pass coverage, including a pass deflection on a key drive in the fourth quarter of the game. Ham also made two tackles in draw plays, designed to trick to defense into thinking pass before handing the ball off to the running back. Ham was all over the field and submitted a dominate defensive performance for the ages.
3. Franco Harris – Running Back, 1980, Pittsburgh Steelers: Super Bowl XIV was a battle between the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. It still holds the record for attendance with 103,985 fans at the game. Pittsburgh scored 14 points in the 4th quarter to win 31-19, their fourth Super Bowl in team history. Despite throwing three interceptions, quarterback Terry Bradshaw was named MVP.
Franco Harris, drafted in the 1st round (13th overall) in the 1972 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a Pro Football Hall of Famer and four-time Super Bowl Champion. In this game, Harris had two touchdowns and 46 yards on 20 carries, and three receptions for 66 yards. His 112 total yards are greater than either his 1976 or 1979 efforts. Harris’ two touchdowns in the 1980 Super Bowl equal the total of those two games combined.
Another day, another Franco Harris Super Bowl performance that makes our top ten list. If you’ve been following along since the beginning, you already know how this story goes: Pittsburgh starts the game pounding the ball on the ground to set up the pass. Their opening possession six straight runs (Harris 3 times for 5 yards, Rocky Bleier 3 for 16) until Bradshaw found Harris for a 32 yard pass. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the drive stalled and they had to settle for the field goal and an early 3-0 lead. Franco started their second possession off with a 12 yard run and finished it with a one yard sweep right to give Pittsburgh a 10-7 lead early in the 2nd quarter, but he only had two more carries for three yards the rest of the half as the Steelers trailed 13-10.
Starting the 2nd half with the ball, Pittsburgh ran Bleier once and Harris twice (for six yards) before Bradshaw connected with Lynn Swann for 47 yards and another Steeler lead. Harris collected good stats the rest of the quarter, but none led to Pittsburgh points as Los Angeles led 19-17 going into the fourth and final quarter. Harris ended up with two receptions, one for 14 yards, one for 20, and four carries (for only six yards) in the third quarter. He also collected a tackle after Bradshaw threw a pick in the red zone near the end of the half.
In the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh scored early and never gave up the lead. Harris carried the ball five times to help kill out the clock and preserve the Steelers lead. With 1:49 left in the game, Franco iced it for his team with a one yard plunge into the end zone, his 2nd touchdown of the game. That score made it 31-19 and it would remain that way, giving Harris his fourth and final Super Bowl championship.
Check back tomorrow to find out the runner-up and who is #1!
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