(Photo by Nate Fine/Getty Images)
Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports recently ranked the top 10 teams of the Super Bowl era, and the Steelers' 1978 Super Bowl team came in at No. 1 on his list.
The criteria used when creating this list included the team's overall record, Hall of Fame representation, coaching, dominance vs. the field, quality of opponents, and offensive/defensive standings (largely points scored and points allowed). DeArdo also notes that you had to win a Super Bowl, which is why the 2007 Patriots failed to make the list.
The Steelers had a 17-2 record overall (including the playoffs) in the 1978 season and their roster included 10 Hall of Fame players. They also had a Hall of Fame coach in Chuck Noll and three Hall of Famers in the front office -- owner Art Rooney, team president Dan Rooney and assistant personal director Bill Nunn.
Before the 1978 season began, the league's Competition Committee enforced the "Mel Blount Rule" which prohibited contact with wide receivers five yards past the line of scrimmage. The new rule was implemented to advance the passing game in the league, but some viewed it as a way to slow down the "Steel Curtain" defense. However, the rule actually helped the Steelers more than it hindered them, as quarterback Terry Bradshaw's career really took off.
"Coach Chuck Noll unleashed quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who won league and Super Bowl MVP honors," DeArdo wrote. "In the playoffs, Pittsburgh's offense put up 33 points on the defending AFC champion Broncos, 34 on the Oilers and then 35 on the Cowboys' "Doomsday" defense in Super Bowl XIII. Receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth each recorded 100-yard receiving days against the Cowboys, while Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris gave the Steelers a double-digit lead on a 22-yard scoring run."
While the offense flourished because of the new "Mel Blount Rule," it didn't slow down the Steel Curtain from still being the most dominant defense in all of football.
"While a little older, Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense was still playing at an all-time level in 1978," DeArdo wrote. "Led by two-time DPOY Joe Greene, Blount, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, and Donnie Shell, the Steelers' defense allowed a league-low 12.2 points per game during the regular season. They allowed just 15 points in Pittsburgh's first two playoff games before holding the Cowboys' high-octane offense to just 17 points for the first 57 minutes of Super Bowl XIII. The '78 Steelers boasted a star-studded roster, a Hall of Fame front office, and a collection of players who won a record four Super Bowls in a six-year span."
The 1978 team is regarded by most as being the best Steelers team to win a Super Bowl, as Bradshaw formed into an elite quarterback and the defense was still playing at a high level. They were the most balanced and complete team of the Steelers' 1970s dynasty. The Steel Curtain led the Steelers to their first two Super Bowls wins and Bradshaw was often hot and cold during those years. And the defense fell off a little bit in 1979 when the Steelers won their final Super Bowl of the decade.
The 1976 Steelers are considered by many as being the best team in franchise history, but they of course failed to win a Super Bowl that year, as Franco Harris (ribs) and Rocky Bleier (toe) were inactive against the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game, and that contributed heavily to their 24-7 loss.
DeArdo had the Steelers' 1978 team ranked ahead of the 1972 Dolphins, 1985 Bears and 1984 49ers on his list of the top 10 teams of the Super Bowl era