|Dallas Cowboys–Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1st Meeting||September 24, 1960|
|Last Meeting||December 7, 2008|
|Next Meeting||October 17, 2012|
|Number of Meetings||30|
|All-Time Series||Tied 15-15|
|Regular Season Series||DAL 14-13|
|Largest victory||DAL: 37-7 (8/31/1997)|
|Current Streak||PIT: Won 2|
|Longest DAL Win Streak||7 (November 14, 1965-October 8, 1972)|
|Longest PIT Win Streak||5 (January 18, 1976-September 13, 1982)|
|Post Season Series||PIT: 2-1|
|January 18, 1976||Super Bowl X, Steelers won 21-17|
|January 21, 1979||Super Bowl XIII, Steelers won 35-31|
|January 28, 1996||Super Bowl XXX, Cowboys won 27-17|
|NFL Championships (11)|
The Cowboys–Steelers Rivalry is a rivalry in the National Football League. As such, the two teams only meet during the regular season every four years when the AFC North play the NFC East, and aside from occasional preseason matchups the only other way the two teams would meet would be the Super Bowl. However for the first decade of the Cowboys existence Pittsburgh and Dallas were heated division rivals, in fact the first Dallas Cowboys NFL game was against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams also boast the most numerous Super Bowl matchup in history with three Dallas-Pittsburgh championships, more than any other Super Bowl pairing (Dallas-Buffalo, San Francisco-Cincinnati, and Washington-Miami having been played only twice).
The all-time series is currently tied at 15-15.
Similarities between the two regions
Both Western Pennsylvania (Including all of the Pittsburgh metro area) and the entire state of Texas are known to be football hotbeds at all levels. High school football in both regions draws crowds in the tens of thousands and gets regular press coverage in both regions. The local communities in both regions usually shut down local businesses for these games, which also serve as the largest social gathering for many of these communities.
College football is popular in both regions, and have produced powerhouse football teams. Four of the twelve Big 12 Conference schools are located in Texas (including the Texas Longhorns), while Pitt Panthers, Penn State Nittany Lions and West Virginia Mountaineers are in the Pittsburgh Tri-State Region with many fans of the nearby Ohio State Buckeyes residing in the area. In addition to these traditional powers, during the birth of the college game the Pittsburgh city schools of Duquesne University, Carnegie Mellon University and Washington & Jefferson College all qualified for multiple major-bowls in the 1920s and 1930s and ranked in the top 10 of the AP. While in Texas the Longhorns have had at least one player selected in each of the last 71 NFL Drafts dating back to 1938, while Penn State itself had a 53-year draft streak that ended in 2005.
Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman Ernie Stautner, who played his entire 14-year career with the Steelers, later served as defensive coordinator under Cowboys head coach and fellow Hall of Famer Tom Landry during the Cowboys successful run in the 1970s, while the Cowboys would later draft another Hall of Famer, Tony Dorsett, the Pitt standout and Heisman Trophy winner who is a native of Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania. Both of Dallas' 1970's Super Bowl MVP's--Chuck Howley and Randy White--hail from the Pittsburgh Tri-State. Conversely, two members of the Steelers' famed Steel Curtain defensive line (Ernie Holmes and "Mean Joe" Greene) are Texas natives, as is current Steelers Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton. Current Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey served as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh before becoming the head coach of the Cowboys for two years in the late 1990s.
Before the Cowboys (1952-1960)
The roots to the Cowboys–Steelers rivalry can be traced several years before the Cowboys played a game, and to another team entirely. Following the 1951 NFL season, New York Yanks owner Ted Collins sold his team back to the NFL due to financial difficulties competing with the New York Giants in the same market, as well as the All-America Football Conference folding just two years before and putting a severe drain on the team.
Not wanting the team to compete with the Giants in the same market, the NFL decided to move the rights to the franchise to either the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex or Baltimore. Baltimore had previously been home to an NFL team, the original Baltimore Colts which had come over from the AAFC along with the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers, but had folded after the 1950 NFL season due to financial difficulties despite strong fan support. Dallas, and the state of Texas in general, was a true expansion market that was untapped, and the NFL owners liked the appeal that Dallas offered due to the aforementioned following of football in the state.
The NFL owners voted 10-1 to award the assets of the Yanks to the Dallas group led by Giles Miller as opposed to the Baltimore group, which became the Dallas Texans. The lone holdout was Steelers founder and owner Art Rooney. Rooney, an Irish Catholic, was more tolerable to African Americans than the other owners (most of whom were Protestant and had their own discrimination towards Catholics) and was concerned about the racism that existed in the Southern United States at the time and the subsequent civil rights movement that would take place later in the decade. Rooney's assumptions would be later proven correct: while the Texans struggled on the field, it also struggled at the gate partly because two of the team's best players, George Taliaferro and Buddy Young, were both black, which made fans in Texas automatically turn away from the team simply because of prejudice.
Early years (1960-1969)
After the failure of the Texans, the NFL had no plans to return to the state in the foreseeable future. However, in 1959, Lamar Hunt, the son of oil tycoon H. L. Hunt, approached the NFL about putting another expansion team in Dallas. The NFL said no, stating that the league was not expanding at the time. He then approached the Chicago Cardinals about buying the team from owner Violet Bidwill Wolfner, who ultimately decided to keep the team and whose son Bill Bidwill remains the owner today (the Cardinals did move to St. Louis, Missouri for the 1960 NFL season; the team currently is based in Phoenix, Arizona; the Cowboys and Cardinals were divisional rivals from 1961-66, and again from 1970-2001). Due to these rebuffs, Hunt formed the American Football League with his own Dallas team, the AFL's incarnation of the Dallas Texans.
In response, the NFL suddenly reversed course and awarded an expansion team to Dallas for the 1960 season that ultimately became the Cowboys. The plan worked: although the Texans were by far the better team on the field and won the 1962 AFL Championship, due to the Cowboys being part of the more-established NFL, the Texans took their AFL Championship north to Kansas City, Missouri, where they remain today as the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the meantime, the Cowboys started play in the NFL in 1960. Their first game was against the same Steelers team that voted against putting an NFL team in Dallas eight years earlier, with the Steelers coming away with a 35-28 victory at the Cotton Bowl, en route to an 0-11-1 first season for the Cowboys. The following year, the two teams met again in the season opener at the Cotton Bowl and the results would be different: the young Cowboys beat the veteran-filled Steelers 27-24, the first victory for the Cowboys in franchise history.
The two teams would head in opposite directions the rest of the decade, with the Cowboys competing for the NFL championship in 1966 and 1967 (both losses to the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers, the latter matchup in the Ice Bowl) while the Steelers would be among the NFL's worst teams, culminating in a 1-13 record in 1969 that saw the team win its season opener against the Detroit Lions, then lose every game afterwards in the first season of Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Noll.
Teams of the 1970's (1970-1979)
The Steelers would be moved to the newly-formed American Football Conference as a result of the AFL–NFL merger for the 1970 NFL season while the Cowboys would be placed in the National Football Conference. The Cowboys would split the first two Super Bowl matchups of the decade while the Steelers started improving.
Around this time, both teams would have firm identities. Both were strong on defense with the Steelers' famed Steel Curtain defense while the Cowboys boasted the Doomsday Defense, based around Landry's "flex" defense. On the offensive side of the ball brought key differences, as the Cowboys had Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach and his aerial attack, as well as his reputation for fourth-quarter comebacks, earning him the nickname "Captain Comeback". The Steelers meanwhile, were powered offensively by the running game, led by Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris.
The two would have their first postseason meeting in Super Bowl X, with both teams vying to tie the Packers and Miami Dolphins for their second Super Bowl Championship. The Steelers won this game, 21-17, after safety Glen Edwards intercepted a Staubach pass in the end zone to seal the victory. The hostility was evident in the third quarter when Steelers kicker Roy Gerela missed his second field goal, a 33-yard attempt. After the miss, Cowboys safety Cliff Harris mockingly patted Gerela on his helmet and thanked him for "helping Dallas out," but was immediately shoved to the ground by Steeler linebacker Jack Lambert. Lambert could have been ejected from the game for defending his teammate, but the officials decided to allow him to remain.
After the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII, the two would meet again in Super Bowl XIII, considered one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played and consisted of a combined 20 players, coaches, and front-office administration that ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an NFL record. The Steelers would once again come victorious, holding off the Cowboys 35-31. By this point, both teams would have rabid fan bases established nationally due to prominent television exposure.
The two would meet in the regular season in 1979 at Three Rivers Stadium, a 14-3 Steelers victory that many thought would be preview of Super Bowl XIV. While the Steelers did go on to win Super Bowl XIV that season, the Los Angeles Rams crashed the party, having upset the Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs 21-19 in Staubach's last game en route to meeting the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.
Down years (1980-1989)
Age eventually caught up to both teams once the 1980s hit, though both remained competitive into the middle of the decade. The highlight of the decade for this rivalry would come in the 1982 season opener at Texas Stadium, when the Steelers ended the Cowboys NFL-record 17-year season-opening winning streak with a 36-28 victory against the Cowboys.
By the middle of the decade, both teams were rebuilding. The 1986 NFL season would be the first year since the 1965 NFL season that both teams missed the playoffs, which would happen for two more years before the Steelers clinched a wild card spot in 1989. During this time, the Steelers, with a mix of aging veterans and younger players, remained competitive in the AFC Central while the wheels fell off competely in Dallas. In 1988, both Tom Landry and Chuck Noll appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated together, asking if both coaches had lost their touch. Though both teams had young future Hall of Famers in Michael Irvin and Rod Woodson, the Cowboys and Steelers would finish 3-13 and 5-11, respectively, for 1988. New Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fired Landry after the season. Noll would retire just three seasons later after missing the playoffs by just a few games each year after his breakout 1989 wild-card spot and two playoff thrillers, a 26-23 overtime victory in Houston and a 24-23 loss at Denver.
Return to prominence (1990-present)
The Cowboys would return to prominence in the 1990s, winning three Super Bowls, while the Steelers would return to AFC Championship contention under head coach Bill Cowher. The rivalry resumed in the 1990s, but unlike the 1970s matchups that were dominated by Pittsburgh, Dallas got the upper hand this time around. The Cowboys swept all four matchups between the two teams in the decade.
The possibility of Cowboys–Steelers III for Super Bowl XXIX existed, as both teams advanced to their respective conference championships. Such a matchup would be a rematch from Week 1 of the regular season, which the Cowboys won 26-9. The Cowboys were the two-time defending Super Bowl champions, while the Steelers behind their "Blitzburgh" defense was the favorite to win the AFC. However, the San Diego Chargers upset the Steelers 17-13 while the San Francisco 49ers, who had lost in the NFC Championship game the previous two years to the Cowboys, broke through with a 38-28 victory against the Cowboys.
Fans would only have to wait another year for Cowboys–Steelers III in the Super Bowl, as both teams advanced to Super Bowl XXX. Like the previous two matchups, the game was close, but this time favored the Cowboys, who won 27-17 after Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell threw two interceptions to Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown, who would be named Super Bowl MVP for his efforts.
The Steelers have remained competitive since and have won two additional Super Bowls while the Cowboys have been largely disregarded as serious playoff contenders. The regular season matchups still get hype today. The two matchups since the start of the 21st century have both been close. The Steelers defeated the Cowboys in both games and came from behind in both, winning 24-20 in 2004 and 20-13 in 2008.
- "All-Time NFL Draft Picks". MackBrownTexasFootball. http://ww.mackbrown-texasfootball.com/index.php?s=&url_channel_id=36&url_subchannel_id=&url_article_id=767&change_well_id=2. Retrieved May 13, 2008.[dead link]
- 75 Seasons: The Complete Story of the National Football League, pg. 103
- No. 13 of 100 Greatest Super Bowl Moments, espn.com (Last retrieved October 28, 2005)
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