Game well-played furnishes little consolation for Steelers Pittsburgh expected to win and almost did

January 29, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- All week long the Pittsburgh Steelers had heard the brash talk from the Dallas Cowboys, and how they were going to beat the Steelers much like the San Francisco 49ers had defeated the San Diego Chargers in last year's Super Bowl.

The Cowboys rode in $1,000-a-day limos. They dressed in derby hats. They teased the Steelers with jokes about NFC supremacy.

And then the Steelers almost pulled a big upset.

Almost.

Two interceptions of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell led to two touchdowns, as the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Steelers, 27-17, last night in Super Bowl XXX.

The Steelers came close to flying home with the trophy.

"We have to hold our heads high," said Steelers outside linebacker Kevin Greene. "I thought we played physical. I thought our defensive line controlled their offensive line. I am not sure if there are a lot of things that you can take out of a loss like this. . . . We came out fighting.

"You can measure an athlete's strength. You can measure an athlete's weight -- his girth, his vertical jump, but you can't measure a man's heart. The measure of a man's heart is how he deals with adversity and the way he overcomes a seemingly impossible situation. And I thought we played with a lot of heart today."

Defensively, the Steelers out-slugged Dallas' offensive line, which man-for-man had nearly a 40-pound weight advantage. Pittsburgh held Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith to only 49 yards rushing on 18 carries. He wasn't a factor.

Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders and Nate Newton weren't big factors either, even though they did most of the talking during Super Bowl week.

"Everybody had this idea that Emmitt was going to run all over us," Greene said. "Everything I heard last week was that their offensive line was going to crush us. And they didn't. It went the other way."

Steelers right cornerback Carnell Lake said: "I feel like we lost the game. We definitely lost the game. You can't come out and have two turnovers and expect to win in the Super Bowl."

If anything, the Steelers did win the battle of statistics. Pittsburgh had 310 yards compared to 254 for Dallas. The Steelers had more than a seven-minute edge in time of possession and almost doubled Dallas' rushing total.

"We didn't come into the football game expecting to give these guys a good game," Lake said. "We came in with the expectation to win this football game and we felt that we could. We were there."

Actually, the Steelers wanted to prove something to the football world after losing to the San Diego Chargers in the AFC championship game a year ago.

The Steelers also lost three key players during the off-season in running back Barry Foster, tight end Eric Green and receiver Dwight Stone.

Then Pittsburgh got off to a 3-4 start during the season.

"There's no consolation in losing the Super Bowl," said Darren Perry. "You get this far, and you feel bad because you lose. But people were writing us off when we were 3-4."

Smith said: "Pittsburgh played a great ballgame the whole day. I have a lot of respect for them."

Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said: "We weren't intimidated. I'm proud of our guys, they never stayed down, and we gave our best shot today. We got here. Unfortunately, we fell short today."

First of all

Though the Steelers didn't turn it around enough to win, they improved on their first-down performance in the second half:

First half

Type .. .. Att. .. Yards

Rush .. .. 3 .. .. 11

Pass .. .. 9 .. .. -16

Second half

Rush .. .. 8 .. .. 29

Pass .. .. 15 . .. 93

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