The Pittsburgh Steelers are favored by seven points to beat the Denver Broncos in the American Football Conference playoff game Saturday in Three Rivers Stadium (12:30 WRC-TV-4, WBAL-TV-11). But the Broncos won the news conference today.
The Steelers' side of it went downhill from the moment their coach, Chuck Noll, self-conscious about his unspectacular image, said "Somebody suggested I open with a joke. But nobody would laugh."
Red Miller, coach of the Broncos, was put on the defensive right away. "Do the Steelers have a bunch of fat boys?" he was asked.
It was an allusion to Miller having said after beating the Oakland Raiders for a season sweep, "Those big guys get tired."
"No," Miller vehemently answered the loaded question about the Steelers, "they're mean and lean."
Did he regret what he said about he Raiders?
"No," the coach said, "just the fact that it was described wrong. I said it was a classic confrontation between our swarming defense and their huge offensive linemen."
But didn't he use the word "fat"? Miller chuckled and said, "Not for public use."
Quarterback Craig Morton has already said, "We won't outtalk the Steelers, nobody's going to do that."
Morton couldn't, or wouldn't, give specific instances.
Lyle Alzado, part defensive end and part book author, came to the rescue by disclosing that Miller had distributed to all the Broncos newspaper clippings of derogatory remarks allegedly made by defensive tackle Joe Greene and middle linebacker Jack Lambert.
Alzado insisted that Miller had the clippings framed. The gist of some of the quotations of Greene and Lambert were, "Now the Broncos have to come to us (as if they did not belong in the same game)," and, "The Broncos never have experienced the intensity they will encounter on Saturday."
Alzado reported his reaction: "Did I mind? Sure, that said we don't even belong here. We deserve to be here as much as them. We're an emotional team. when things like that are said, you rise to the occasion. The Pittsburgh offense hasn't said anything; the defense has. Defenders are like that. you know, big-headed and bigmouthed."
Miller was asked about distributing the clips and said, "I give them Mickey Mouse books... anything. I get the clips from fans all over the country."
"Our season was an up-and-down thing," Miller went on. "But when we had to win, our people came through (with a 10-6 record to the Steelers' 14-2). We go into every game expecting to win, not 'hoping' to win. The Steelers are a physical team; they play the game the way I like it. It will be a confrontation of two great defenses.
"Craig Morton will start at quarterback because of his leadership. We like to have Norris Weese ready. He gives the defense containment problems. His running reminds me of Steve Grogan when I was with New England. The chances are that Morton and Weese both will play. The Pittsburgh defense will command any change.
"The Steelers have the edge with their passing. We have the edge in running. They have scored from pretty far out, with their passing.
"The Steelers use a safety blitz. That's a gamble. If they lose the gamble twice or so early, they might have to get out of it. We have to throw the ball with authority."
Alzado said the Broncos' chances "depend on how our offense controls the ball, and on turnovers. I don't think it will be a high-scoring game. I think we can beat them if our defense is not on the field all day. If our offence can't control the ball we'll get the (bleep) beat out of us."
"Weese covers a lot of the field with his mobility," Noll said. It is easier to defend against Morton from a pass rush angle. I'd like one to play one half, one the other half. It's a luxury when you have two quarterbacks. But our Terry Bradshaw is having his best year (winning the AFC passing title)."
It also is pertinent that the Steelers have a 55-12 record at home in the last nine years.