The last time the Cowboys and Steelers played was in December 2012. Dan Bailey’s overtime 21 yard field goal won the game for Dallas by a 27-24 score.
The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers do not play each other often but when they do, chances are that something memorable will happen. Today at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the rivals meet for the 32nd time (including three Super Bowl contests) with the Cowboys having won 16 of the 31 previous contests. Dallas makes its second visit to the most recent home of the Steelers, having lost the previous time in 2008 after blowing a ten point fourth quarter lead.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the teams’ 31 previous contests.
The Dallas Cowboys’ first season in 1960 ended in a 0-11-1 record. Quarterback Eddie LeBaron and his Dallas teammates made sure right off the bat that the 1961 Cowboys would have a goose egg in the column.
On September 17, 1961 at the Cotton Bowl, LeBaron rallied the Cowboys to a thrilling 27-24 win to give the franchise its first victory. LeBaron’s fourth quarter touchdown pass to Dick Bielski tied the score, and a key LeBaron completion to Billy Howton with seconds to play set up Allen Green for a 27 yard chip shot field goal that put Dallas in the win column.
13 months later, this time at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, LeBaron tormented the Steelers again. The tiny quarterback threw five touchdown passes, including three to Frank Clarke, to lead Dallas to a 42-27 victory.
Calvin Hill made his name in the NFL running with the ball. In six years with the Cowboys, Hill rushed for over 5,000 yards and made four Pro Bowls. Running with the ball, however, wasn’t the only thing the first round choice out of Yale did for Tom Landry and the Cowboys’ offense.
Hill was a good receiver (he had 139 catches, six for touchdowns during his time in Dallas), and could also throw the ball.
The tall halfback threw three touchdown passes in his career, the last coming in October 1972 to give the Cowboys a 17-13 comeback win over Pittsburgh at Texas Stadium. With Dallas trailing 13-10 in the third quarter, Hill connected with receiver Ron Sellers on a 55 yard scoring play that gave Dallas the points it needed for the win.
Terry Bradshaw was often battered and bruised by the Dallas Cowboys’ Doomsday defense, but the Louisiana native generally had the last laugh when going up against Dallas.
Following a 1972 loss at Dallas to the Cowboys, Bradshaw led Pittsburgh to five consecutive wins over the Cowboys (including wins in Super Bowls X and XIII). The last victory over Dallas that Bradshaw orchestrated ended an amazing streak for the Cowboys.
Entering the 1982 season, the Cowboys had won 16 consecutive opening day games. Starting out a season 1-0 was as much a part of the Cowboys as the hole in the roof at Texas Stadium and Tom Landry’s fedora hat.
The streak ended at the hands of Bradshaw and the Steelers, as three Bradshaw touchdown passes and 103 yards rushing from Franco Harris led Pittsburgh to a 36-28 victory. The Cowboys didn’t go down without a fight as Danny White threw for four scores of his own, but costly Cowboys’ turnovers and an inability to stop the Steelers’ offense when it counted led to the end of Dallas’ impressive streak.
Barry Switzer had his ups and downs in his four years as coach of the Cowboys. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers however, it was all high fives and back slaps for the genial Switzer.
In his first game in 1994, Switzer’s Cowboys rode 171 yards rushing by Emmitt Smith, 139 receiving yards by Michael Irvin and a ferocious pass rush led by Charles Haley to trounce the Steelers 26-9 at Three Rivers Stadium.
The next time Switzer faced Pittsburgh, the stakes were higher but the result was the same. Dallas defeated Pittsburgh 27-17 in Super Bowl 30 to give the Cowboys their fifth NFL title.
In 1997, again on opening day, Switzer and the Cowboys once again made life miserable for the denizens of the Steel City as Dallas won 37-7. Troy Aikman sliced and diced the Steel Curtain on the hot late August day, throwing for four touchdowns (two to Irvin) and posting a 135.4 QBR (the best ever for a Cowboys’ quarterback against Pittsburgh).
In the mid to late 1970s, running back Preston Pearson was a vital cog of the Cowboys’ high-powered offense. With defenses preoccupied with covering talented Cowboys receivers such as Drew Pearson, Tony Hill and Billy Joe DuPree, Pearson often was left in single coverage and more often than not, he made opponents pay for that strategy.
Pearson was picked up on waivers right before the start of the 1975 season after being released by Chuck Noll and the Steelers. On a squad where he was the only player who had not played his entire career as a Cowboy, the versatile halfback helped Dallas surprise the NFL world by going 10-4, winning two playoff games and earning a spot in Super Bowl X against the Steelers.
Many NFL historians believe that Pearson was the first true third down specialist among NFL running backs. Running screen plays and seam passes with precision, Pearson caught 189 passes (11 for touchdowns) in his time in Dallas.