1976 Pittsburgh Steelers season
OwnerArt Rooney
Head coachChuck Noll
Home fieldThree Rivers Stadium
Results
Record10–4
Division place1st in AFC Central
Playoff finishWon Divisional Playoffs (at Colts) 40–14
Lost AFC Championship (at Raiders) 7–24
Pro Bowlers
AP All-Pros
5
  • Jack Ham (1st team)
  • Jack Lambert (1st team)
  • Glen Edwards (2nd team)
  • Joe Greene (2nd team)
  • Mike Wagner (2nd team)
Team MVPJack Lambert

The 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the team's 44th in the National Football League. The Steelers started the season looking to become the first team in the Super Bowl era to win three-straight league championships (and first since the 1929-1931 and 1965-1967 Green Bay Packers). However, many thought that would be in doubt after the team started 1–4 and saw quarterback Terry Bradshaw injured in the week 5 loss to the Cleveland Browns after a vicious sack by Joe "Turkey" Jones that has since become immortalized in NFL Films as part of the Browns-Steelers rivalry. The 1976 Steelers' 9.9 points allowed per game in the regular season is the best in franchise history.

Season

Despite the setbacks, the Steelers would turn it around behind the strength of the Steel Curtain and its dual threat at running back in Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, who each rushed for over 1,000 yards with the latter having the best season of his career, Pittsburgh finished 10–4 and posted five shutouts, the most in a single season in the Super Bowl era. Rookie quarterback Mike Kruczek wound up going 6–0 starting in place of Bradshaw, largely due to the strength of the ground game. This would also stand as an NFL record for best start for a rookie quarterback until 2004—when the Steelers' own Ben Roethlisberger more than doubled that record and went 13–0 as a starter his rookie season.

Playoffs

However, injuries to both Bleier and Harris in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Baltimore Colts sidelined them both for the following week's AFC Championship game against the Oakland Raiders. Without both of their 1,000-yard rushers, the Steelers lost to the Raiders by a score of 24-7. Even with Pittsburgh coming up short, many Steelers fans—including the Rooney family themselves—consider the 1976 Steelers the best team in franchise history, even better than all six world championship teams.[citation needed] Jack Lambert, who won 4 Super Bowls with the Steelers between 1974 and 1979, claimed that the 1976 Steelers team was the best team that he ever played for, and subsequently, the loss to the Raiders in the AFC Championship game was the most painful loss of his career. He (Lambert) is convinced that they would have beaten the Raiders and gone on to win that season's Super Bowl had Harris and Bleier both been healthy and available for said AFC Championship game.

In 2007, ESPN.com named the 1976 Steelers the greatest defense in NFL history,[1] noting, "the 1976 unit was the best (slightly better than the '75 squad). Here's why: 28. That's how many points the Steel Curtain surrendered in the last nine games of the season. That's a total. As a result, Pittsburgh, which started the season 1–4, made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game. Only one of the seven teams the Steelers played during the streak finished the season with a winning record (Cincinnati) and none made the playoffs. However the defensive dominance did extend to the Divisional playoff with a resounding 40–14 defeat of the AFC East Champion Baltimore Colts. The Steelers' defense had Hall of Famers Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount. And eight Steelers defensive players made the 1976 Pro Bowl team: cornerback J.T. Thomas, defensive end L. C. Greenwood, Greene, Ham, Lambert, defensive back Glen Edwards, safety Mike Wagner, and Blount."

Personnel

Staff

1976 Pittsburgh Steelers staff
Front office
  • Chairman of the board — Arthur J. Rooney
  • President — Daniel M. Rooney
  • Vice president — John R. McGinley
  • Vice president — Arthur J. Rooney, Jr.
  • Public relations director — Ed Kiely
  • Traveling secretary — James A. Boston
  • Publicity director — Joe Gordon
  • Controller — Dennis P. Thimons
  • Ticket manager — Joseph H. Carr
  • Director of player personnel — Dick Haley
  • Assistant director of player personnel — Bill Nunn
  • Director of professional scouting — V. Timothy Rooney

Head coaches

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches


Strength and conditioning

  • Strength — Louis Riecke
  • Flexibility — Paul Uram
  • Team Physician, M.D. — Dr. David S. Huber
  • Team physician, orthopedic — Dr. Paul B. Steele, Jr.
  • Team dentist — Dr. George P. Boucek
  • Trainer — Ralph Berlin
  • Assistant trainer — Robert Milie
  • Equipment manager — Anthony Parisi
  • Field manager — Jack Hart
  • Film director — Bob McCartney
  • Photographer — Harry Homa

[2]

Roster

1976 Pittsburgh Steelers final roster
Quarterbacks

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen

Linebackers

Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists


Practice squad

[3] [4] [5]


Rookies in italics
44 active, 7 inactive, 1 practice squad

Regular season

Schedule

Week Date Opponent Result Record Time (ET) TV
1 September 12 at Oakland Raiders L 28–31 0–1 4:00 pm NBC
2 September 19 Cleveland Browns W 31–14 1–1 1:00 pm NBC
3 September 26 New England Patriots L 27–30 1–2 1:00 pm NBC
4 October 4 at Minnesota Vikings L 6–17 1–3 9:00 pm ABC
5 October 10 at Cleveland Browns L 16–18 1–4 1:00 pm NBC
6 October 17 Cincinnati Bengals W 23–6 2–4 1:00 pm NBC
7 October 24 at New York Giants W 27–0 3–4 1:00 pm NBC
8 October 31 San Diego Chargers W 23–0 4–4 1:00 pm NBC
9 November 7 at Kansas City Chiefs W 45–0 5–4 2:00 pm NBC
10 November 14 Miami Dolphins W 14–3 6–4 4:00 pm NBC
11 November 21 Houston Oilers W 32–16 7–4 1:00 pm NBC
12 November 28 at Cincinnati Bengals W 7–3 8–4 1:00 pm NBC
13 December 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 42–0 9–4 1:00 pm NBC
14 December 11 at Houston Oilers W 21–0 10–4 4:00 pm NBC
Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.

Game summaries

Week 1: at Oakland Raiders

Week One: Pittsburgh Steelers (0–0) at Oakland Raiders (0–0)
1 2 34Total
Steelers 0 7 71428
Raiders 7 0 71731

at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, California

  • Date: September 12, 1976
  • Game time: 4:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather: 62 °F or 16.7 °C, wind 8 miles per hour (13 km/h; 7.0 kn)
  • Game attendance: 51,371
  • Referee: Jim Tunney
  • TV announcers (NBC): Curt Gowdy & Don Meredith
Game information
First quarter
  • No Scoring Plays

Second quarter

Third quarter

Fourth quarter

Week 2: vs. Cleveland Browns

Week Two: Cleveland Browns (1–0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0–1)
1 2 34Total
Browns 0 14 0014
Steelers 0 0 171431

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Date: Sunday, September 19, 1976
  • Game time: 1:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather: 63 °F or 17.2 °C, wind 9 miles per hour (14 km/h; 7.8 kn)
  • Game attendance: 49,169
  • Referee: Tommy Bell
  • TV announcers (NBC): Jack Buck & Paul Maguire
Game information
First quarter
  • No scoring plays

Second quarter

Third quarter

Week 3: vs. New England Patriots

Week Three: New England Patriots (1–1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1–1)
1 2 34Total
Patriots 6 3 14730
Steelers 7 6 7727

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Date: Sunday, September 26, 1976
  • Game time: 1:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather: 56 °F or 13.3 °C, wind 8 miles per hour (13 km/h; 7.0 kn)
  • Game attendance: 47,379
  • Referee: Dick Jorgensen
  • TV: NBC
Game information
First quarter
  • PIT — Harris 3-yard run (Gerela kick). Steelers 7–0
  • NWE — Smith 42-yard field goal. Steelers 7–3
  • NWE — Smith 40-yard field goal. Steelers 7–6

Second quarter

  • PIT — Gerela 32-yard field goal. Steelers 10–6
  • NWE — Smith 26-yard field goal. Steelers 10–9
  • PIT — Gerela 41-yard field goal. Steelers 13–9

Third quarter

Fourth quarter

Week 4: at Minnesota Vikings

Week Four: Pittsburgh Steelers (1–2) at Minnesota Vikings (2–0–1)
1 2 34Total
Steelers 6 0 006
Vikings 0 7 01017

at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota

  • Date: Monday, October 4, 1976
  • Game time: 9:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather: 65 °F or 18.3 °C, wind 13 miles per hour (21 km/h; 11 kn)
  • Game attendance: 47,809
  • Referee: Pat Haggerty
  • TV announcers (ABC): Frank Gifford (play by play)
    Alex Karras and Howard Cosell (color commentators)
Game information
First quarter

Second quarter

  • MIN — Foreman 8-yard run (Cox kick). Vikings 7–6

Fourth quarter

  • MIN — Foreman 4-yard run (Cox kick). Vikings 14–6
  • MIN — Cox 43-yard field goal. Vikings 17–6

Week 5: at Cleveland Browns

Week Five: Pittsburgh Steelers (1–3) at Cleveland Browns (1–3)
1 2 34Total
Steelers 7 3 0616
Browns 3 3 9318

at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

Game information

Terry Bradshaw was injured on a sack by Turkey Jones and missed six weeks.

Week 6: vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Week Six: Cincinnati Bengals (4–1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1–4)
1 2 34Total
Bengals 3 0 306
Steelers 0 13 01023

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Date: Sunday, October 17, 1976
  • Game time: 1:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather: 41 °F or 5 °C, wind 9 miles per hour (14 km/h; 7.8 kn)
  • Game attendance: 48,311
  • Referee: Cal Lepore
  • TV announcers (NBC): Curt Gowdy and John Brodie
  • [6]
Game information
First quarter
  • CIN — Bahr 22-yard field goal. 0–3

Second quarter

  • PIT — Gerela 42-yard field goal. 3–3
  • PIT — Harris 1-yard run (Gerela kick). 10–3
  • PIT — Gerela 40-yard field goal. 13–3

Third quarter

  • CIN — Bahr 19-yard field goal. 13–6

Fourth quarter

Week 7: at New York Giants

Week Seven: Pittsburgh Steelers (2–4) at New York Giants (0–6)
1 2 34Total
Steelers 0 10 01727
Giants 0 0 000

at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

  • Date: Sunday, October 24, 1976
  • Game time: 1:00 pm EDT
  • Game weather: 51 °F or 10.6 °C, wind 10 miles per hour (16 km/h; 8.7 kn)
  • Game attendance: 69,783
  • Referee: Gordon McCarter
  • TV: NBC
  • [7]
Game information
First quarter
  • No scoring plays

Second quarter

  • PIT — Harris 1-yard run (Gerela kick). Steelers 7–0
  • PIT — Gerela 21-yard field goal. Steelers 10–0

Third quarter

  • No scoring plays

Fourth quarter

  • PIT — Harris 1-yard run (Gerela kick). Steelers 17–0
  • PIT — Gerela 28-yard field goal. Steelers 20–0
  • PIT — Lewis 16-yard run (Gerela kick). Steelers 27–0

This was the first of five shoutout victories, and the second of a sequence of nine games conceding just two touchdowns.

Week 8: vs. San Diego Chargers

Week Eight: San Diego Chargers (4–3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3–4)
1 2 34Total
Chargers 0 0 000
Steelers 0 3 02023

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Date: Sunday, October 31, 1976
  • Game time: 1:00 pm EST
  • Game weather: 44 °F or 6.7 °C, wind 14 miles per hour (23 km/h; 12 kn)
  • Game attendance: 45,484
  • Referee: Tommy Bell
  • TV announcers (NBC): Jim Simpson and Len Dawson
  • [8]
Game information
First quarter
  • No scoring plays

Second quarter

  • PIT — Gerela 36-yard field goal. Steelers 3–0

Third quarter

  • No scoring plays

Fourth quarter

  • PIT — Bradshaw 1-yard run (Gerela kick). Steelers 10–0
  • PIT — Pough 11-yard pass from Bradshaw (Gerela kick). Steelers 17–0
  • PIT — Fuqua 3-yard run (kick failed). Steelers 23–0

Week 9: at Kansas City Chiefs

Week Nine: Pittsburgh Steelers (4–4) at Kansas City Chiefs (3–5)
1 2 34Total
Steelers 7 3 211445
Chiefs 0 0 000

at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

  • Date: Sunday, November 7, 1976
  • Game time: 2:00 pm EST
  • Game weather: 41 °F or 5 °C, wind 14 miles per hour (23 km/h; 12 kn)
  • Game attendance: 71,516
  • Referee: Fred Silva
  • TV announcers (NBC): Ross Porter and Lionel Aldridge
  • [9]
Game information
First quarter

Second quarter

  • PIT — Gerela 28-yard field goal. Steelers 10–0

Third quarter

Fourth quarter

Week 10: vs. Miami Dolphins

Week Ten: Miami Dolphins (5–4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5–4)
1 2 34Total
Dolphins 0 0 303
Steelers 0 7 0714

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Date: Sunday, November 14, 1976
  • Game time: 4:00 pm EST
  • Game weather: 29 °F or −1.7 °C, wind 10 miles per hour (16 km/h; 8.7 kn)
  • Game attendance: 48,945
  • Referee: Bob Frederic
  • TV announcers (NBC): Curt Gowdy and Don Meredith
  • [10]
Game information
First quarter
  • No scoring plays

Second quarter

Third quarter

  • MIA — Yepremian 45-yard field goal. Steelers 7–3

Fourth quarter

Week 11: vs. Houston Oilers

Week Eleven: Houston Oilers (4–6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6–4)
1 2 34Total
Oilers 0 10 0616
Steelers 10 5 10732

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Date: Sunday, November 21, 1976
  • Game time: 1:00 pm EST
  • Game weather: 32 °F or 0 °C, wind 11 miles per hour (18 km/h; 9.6 kn)
  • Game attendance: 47,947
  • Referee: Ben Dreith
  • TV announcers (NBC): Curt Gowdy and John Brodie
  • [11]
Game information
First quarter
  • PIT — Bleier 10-yard run (Gerela kick). Steelers 7–0
  • PIT — Gerela 37-yard field goal. Steelers 10–0

Second quarter

  • PIT — Safety, Toews blocked punt out of end zone. Steelers 12–0
  • HOU — Burrough 69-yard pass from Hadl (Butler kick). Steelers 12–7
  • PIT — Gerela 35-yard field goal. Steelers 15–7
  • HOU — Butler 43-yard field goal. Steelers 15–10

Third quarter

  • PIT — Harrison 1-yard run (Gerela kick). Steelers 22–10
  • PIT — Gerela 18-yard field goal. Steelers 25–10

Fourth quarter

  • PIT — Harrison 1-yard run (Gerela kick). Steelers 32–10
  • HOU — Sawyer 2-yard pass from Hadl (kick failed). Steelers 32–16

Week 12: at Cincinnati Bengals

Week Twelve: Pittsburgh Steelers (7–4) at Cincinnati Bengals (9–2)
1 2 34Total
Steelers 0 0 707
Bengals 3 0 003

at Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati

  • Date: Sunday, November 28, 1976
  • Game time: 4:00 pm EST
  • Game weather: 32 °F or 0 °C, wind 12 miles per hour (19 km/h; 10 kn)
  • Game attendance: 55,142
  • Referee: Jim Tunney
  • TV announcers (NBC): Curt Gowdy and Don Meredith
  • [12]
Game information
First quarter
  • CIN — Bahr 40-yard field goal. Bengals 3–0

Second quarter

  • No scoring plays

Third quarter

Fourth quarter

  • No scoring plays

Week 13: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week Thirteen: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Pittsburgh Steelers
1 2 34Total
Buccaneers 0 0 000
Steelers 7 21 14042

at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Date: Sunday, December 5, 1976
  • Game time: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 23 °F or −5 °C, wind 5 miles per hour (8.0 km/h; 4.3 kn)
  • Game attendance: 43,385
  • Referee: Cal Lepore
  • TV: NBC
  • Box score
Game information

Week 14: at Houston Oilers

Week Fourteen: Pittsburgh Steelers (9–4) at Houston Oilers (5–8)
1 2 34Total
Steelers 0 7 7721
Oilers 0 0 000

at Astrodome, Houston, Texas

  • Date: Saturday, December 11, 1976
  • Game time: 4:00 pm EST
  • Game weather: Played indoors (domed stadium)
  • Game attendance: 44,743
  • Referee: Fred Silva
  • TV announcers (NBC): Curt Gowdy and John Brodie
  • [13]
Game information
First quarter
  • No scoring plays

Second quarter

Third quarter

Fourth quarter

With this win the Steelers record the most NFL shutouts in 50 years with their fifth and set a new NFL record forcing 71 punts in a season.

Standings

AFC Central
W L T PCT DIV CONF PF PA STK
Pittsburgh Steelers(3) 10 4 0 .714 5–1 9–3 342 138 W9
Cincinnati Bengals 10 4 0 .714 4–2 8–4 335 210 W1
Cleveland Browns 9 5 0 .643 3–3 7–5 267 287 L1
Houston Oilers 5 9 0 .357 0–6 3–9 222 273 L2

Postseason

Schedule

Round Date Opponent (seed) Result Record Venue Attendance
Divisional December 19 at Baltimore Colts (2) W 40–14 1–0 Memorial Stadium 59,296
AFC Championship December 26 at Oakland Raiders (1) L 7–24 1–1 Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum 53,821

Game summaries

AFC Divisional Playoffs: at (2) Baltimore Colts
AFC Divisional Playoffs: (3) Pittsburgh Steelers at (2) Baltimore Colts
1 2 34Total
Steelers 9 17 01440
Colts 7 0 0714

at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

Game information

Pittsburgh gained a then-NFL record 524 total yards, but Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier were lost to injuries.

AFC Championship: at (1) Oakland Raiders
AFC Championship: (3) Pittsburgh Steelers at (1) Oakland Raiders
1 2 34Total
Steelers 0 7 007
Raiders 3 14 7024

at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, California

Game information

References

  1. ^ The List: Best NFL defense of all-time, 2007
  2. ^ 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers Media Guide.
  3. ^ 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers Media Guide.
  4. ^ 1977 Pittsburgh Steelers Media Guide.
  5. ^ "1976 Pittsburgh Steelers". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2014-12-17.
  6. ^ "Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers — October 17th, 1976". Pro Football Reference.
  7. ^ "Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants — October 24th, 1976". Pro Football Reference.
  8. ^ "San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers — October 31st, 1976". Pro Football Reference.
  9. ^ "Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs — November 7th, 1976". Pro Football Reference.
  10. ^ "Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers — November 14th, 1976". Pro Football Reference.
  11. ^ "Houston Oilers at Pittsburgh Steelers — November 21st, 1976". Pro Football Reference.
  12. ^ "Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals — November 28th, 1976". Pro Football reference.
  13. ^ "Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Oilers — December 11th, 1976". Pro Football Reference.