Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier Recall Steelers’ Super Bowl XIII Victory

Franco Harris

Getty Images/Staff Pittsburgh Steelers RB Franco Harris, seen here during a postseason game in the 1970s.

On Sunday afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers streamed Super Bowl XIII on the team’s social media channels, allowing Steelers fans to relive the team’s 35-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Super Bowl XIII took place at the Orange Bowl in Miami on January 21, 1979, and was originally broadcast on NBC.

Most compelling about the rebroadcast is how the Steelers interspersed new video interviews with running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier—interviews that were conducted remotely by Stan Savran of the Steelers Radio Network.

It’s reminiscent of the Super Bowl XIV ‘Game Rewind,’ in which John Stallworth and Donnie Shell provided insights about what occurred on the field during the club’s 1980 Super Bowl win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris and Bleier on Beating ‘America’s Team’

Super Bowl XIII was a rematch of Super Bowl X—in the same venue, actually—and Harris and Bleier remember that the Steelers were really looking forward to it.

“We just loved beating the Cowboys,” Bleier said.

“Yes we did,” Harris added.

“They had claimed ‘America’s Team,’ which we know wasn’t true at that time, so that was an impetus, not only from the players’ perspective but from the fan base perspective,” Bleier said. “And so there was great anticipation about that game—or leading up to the game—and we put a season together that was second to none. We only lost two games [in 1979], and so the expectations were riding high.”

Adding to the drama was the trash-talking that preceded the game. Most famously, Dallas linebacker Thomas ‘Hollywood’ Henderson opined that Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw was so dumb that “he couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him the c-a.”

The slight didn’t necessarily upset Bradshaw, at least not outwardly.

“I mean Terry was a pretty cool guy, and he was kinda used to that. Whether he was upset about it, he kept it very to himself. It wasn’t shown,” Bleier recalled, before adding: “Terry was a big game player. He loved to be in the Super Bowl, he loved to be in championship games. He wasn’t the kind of guy to be rattled because of what other people would say about him.”

But the insult did bother Franco. “When Tommy put that in the paper that ticked me off,” Harris said.

On Franco Harris’ Confrontation with Thomas Henderson

Harris went on to express his displeasure to Henderson after ‘Hollywood’ knocked Bradshaw down on a play that had been called dead.

“I was pretty hot at that time and we did exchange some words,” Harris recalled. “We’re in the heat of this battle and it pops into your mind that he was getting all this attention that week about the c-a-t word and I think it all came to a head.”

Harris getting confrontational with the Cowboys’ fast-talking, fun-loving linebacker got the attention of his Steelers’ teammates.

“What become important at that moment in time—whether or not Franco would realize this—but all of a sudden I felt, and I think the rest of that offense felt, there was somewhat of a change,” Bleier said. [Franco] “doesn’t raise his voice at all, he doesn’t confront people, he just goes about his job the best he possibly can….We get back in the huddle and very quietly and very determinately, all he says is ‘Give me the ball!’”

Bradshaw obliged and Harris went on to break off a 22-yard touchdown run, extending Pittsburgh’s lead to 28-17.

“That was the changing point in the game,” Bleier concluded, who goes on to remind viewers that it was he who got on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the wake of the Steelers’ victory. This despite just two carries and one catch during the game, albeit a pivotal touchdown grab that gave the Steelers a 21-14 lead.

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If you missed the Super Bowl XIII ‘Game Rewind,’ you can watch it on Monday June 1 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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