Unlike past Super Bowl efforts, which had more fanfare off the field than on, this year's edition featured enough excitement to compete with the pre-game show. Favorite Pittsburgh, returning for the second time in two years, was facing Dallas, the first wildcard team to ever reach the NFL finals.
Through the first three quarters Dallas held a 10-7 lead. Then at 3:32 of the final quarter, Reggie Harrison, a Pittsburgh reserve running back who played on special teams, blocked a punt by Mitch Hoopes at the Dallas 9. The ball bounced off Harrison's face hard enough to wind up in the Dallas endzone, good enough for a two point safety, and also to run the score to 10-9. It was a play which was considered the turning point of the game. Roy Gerela put Pittsburgh in front for the first time with a 36-yard field goal at 6:19. A few minutes later Mike Wagner intercepted a Roger Staubach pass and returned it 19 yards to the Dallas 7. Terry Bradshaw was unable to get the touchdown, but Gerela booted an 18-yard field goal.
With the score 15-10, the game's hero, Lynn Swann, took a 59-yard pass from Bradshaw and ran it 5 yards into the endzone at 11:58. The kick failed and the stage was set for the final dramatics. The Cowboys drove 80 yards in five plays with under two minutes to play to make the score 21-17. On the drive, two passes of 30 and 11 yards from Staubach to Drew Pearson proved the key. Terry Hanratty replaced Bradshaw, who had been shaken up on his 64-yard pass to Swann, for Pittsburgh's last offensive series and found himself with fourth down and 9 to go on the Dallas 41. Only 1:28 was left to play and coach Chuck Noll decided to gamble, owing to the fact that Dallas had no timeouts left. Rather than punt and risk the runback, he had the Steelers go for the run. They got two yards and Dallas took possession. Five plays later the game was over and Pittsburgh had its second straight Super Bowl triumph.
Dallas coach Tom Landry blamed the defeat on the blocked punt by Harrison, which he said changed the momentum of the game around. He may have been right, but Swann's performance--which earned him the game's Most Valuable Player award-- was momentum enough for the Steelers. Hospitalized only two weeks earlier with a concussion, and dropping passes in practice, the fleet-footed receiver returned to catch four passes for an astonishing total of 161 yards--a Super Bowl record that would stand for many years.