2 Steelers Teams Land on ‘Most Dominant NFL Teams’ List

Franco Harris

Getty Images/Staff Pittsburgh Steelers RB Franco Harris during a playoff game in 1976.

The Pittsburgh Steelers landed two teams on The Athletic’s list of The 25 most dominant NFL teams of the last 50 years.

Only two? Really?

Even The Athletic’s NFL reporting group—which prepared the list with the help of Pro Football Reference data—seemed surprised at that result, noting that “Four franchises each placed three teams in the top 25, but one of the organizations with six Super Bowl victories was not among them.”

Both Steelers teams that made the list were inside the Top 10, however.

The 1985 Chicago Bears came in at No. 1.


The Formula for the ‘25 Most Dominant NFL Teams’ List

The Athletic’s most dominant list—which features 18 Super Bowl winning teams—was prepared using a formula with weighted components, including:

1. Regular-season won-lost record (35 percent)
2. Regular-season points-per-game ratio (35 percent)
3. Postseason winning percentage (10 percent)
4. Postseason points-per-game ratio (10 percent)

And finally, regular-season and postseason point differential vs. teams that finished the regular season with winning records (10 percent).


1978 Pittsburgh Steelers

The first Steelers team to appear on the list—at #8—is the ’78 Steelers, which finished the regular season 14-2 en route to a 35-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. That team ranked first in points allowed—a mere 12.2 points per game. But what most people remember is Terry Bradshaw’s record-setting performance in the Super Bowl against the Cowboys, which included 318 yards passing and 4 touchdown passes.


1975 Pittsburgh Steelers

The highest-ranked Steelers team on the list—at #7—is the ’75 Steelers, which went 12-2 on the way to vanquishing the Cowboys in Super Bowl X. The Athletic’s editors highlight how these Steelers “held opponents to 10 or fewer points in 10 games, including a pair of playoff victories, and finished in the top five in points allowed, interceptions and sacks, among other categories.” More notably, still, they scored “2.3 times as many points as they allowed during the regular season, a factor that ranks second to the 1985 Bears by the narrowest of margins among teams in the top 25.”

By now you might be wondering about the 1976 Steelers, oft-mentioned in discussions about the best team in franchise history. They warrant an aside, with The Athletic noting: “The 1976 Steelers were No. 1 among all teams since 1970 in PPG ratio, at 2.5, but with a 10-4 record in the regular season and no Super Bowl appearance after losing [Rocky] Bleier and [Franco] Harris to injuries, they missed the cut on this list.”

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‘Also Worth Noting,’ 3 Other Pittsburgh Steelers Teams

The Steelers did place three other teams on what amounts to an honorable mention list: The 1979 Steelers are ranked No. 53 in The Athletic’s power rankings, while the 1974 Steelers are at No. 66 and the 2008 Steelers come in at No. 85. Of course, all three of those teams were Super Bowl champions.

If you’d like to re-visit the crowning achievement of the 1979 Steelers, check out the Super Bowl XIV ‘Game Rewind’ on May 24.

Last but not least, it’s also worth noting that the second-most dominant team on the list, the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, lost only one game en route to beating the Miami Dolphins 38-16 in Super Bowl XIX.

The only team to beat the 1984 49ers? That would be Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers, who escaped Candlestick Park with a 20-17 victory in week 7 that year.

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