The replay showed the nightmare of all receivers -- Jackie Smith dropping an easy touchdown pass in the end zone. From where Lynn Swann stood, close to the top of the world, the moment called not for sympathy but for gloating.
"Oh, baby," he said, "fellow ain't got what hereoes are made of."
Swann clearly does. Once again in the Super Bowl he ran the most dangerous routes and grabbed the important passes -- and got the benefit of the doubt on the interference call that led to the game-breaking touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys.
In Dallas, Swann will be known as the Pittsburgh Stealer, whose deeds seemed to include a subtle shove that put cornerback Benny Barnes in such position he could hardly avoid the trip that field judge Fred Swearingen called.
Swann was unusually vocal immediately after the 35-31 victory, reminding everyone he had coaxed the Steelers two weeks ago to use the play that produced their first and last touchdowns today.
He fumbled candor after questions about the collision with Barnes, saying: "I'll have to look at the films to see if the official made a great call or a mistake, but he (Barnes) tripped me twice.
"And if Benny doesn't get to me, I catch it. And I'm gone."
"And impartial witness is not quite sure where to begin in praise of Swann. All Terry Bradshaw used in winning honors as most valuable player were his arm and his mind (he seemed to outwit the entire Cowboy brain trust at times).
And if the voting was not unanimous, it should have been.
But Swann was as well rounded as any player in any game will ever be. Afterward, he was to be found with an unfamiliar item tucked, football-style, under his right arm. It was an enormous bottle of champagne and he broke past some oversized reporters to reach Steeler President Dan Rooney.
"I know it's against the rules for these things to be opened," he said, clutching the cork. "But I can't help myself."
"Go ahead," Rooney whispered. "You can be spontaneous."
And he was, explaining not long before popping the top that he bought the 4 1/2-fifth bottle just before the team left Pittsburgh for here this week. Give him yet another versatility mark -- for anticipation.
"We honestly felt we could score," he said. "Tom Landry didn't think we could. He said three touchdowns would beat us.(Safeties) Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters said I'd pay the price.
"Harris gave me his best shot, when I didn't have the ball. But Cliff Harris was closest to me when I caught the winning touchdown pass." Swann has the soft features one expects from a virtuoso, an acrobat who glops enough stickum on himself to be called a glue-fingered receiver, literally. So those harsh words that leap from his lips cause mild surprise, until one recalls the sort of recklessness required to make his catches.
The enduring memory of the '76 Super Bowl is Swann draped over Dallas cornerback Mark Washington, the two a mass of arms and legs and Swann somehow controlling the ball as both topple toward the ground -- and holding it.
He caught four passes for 161 yards during that 21-17 victory, including the 64-yarder for the winning touchdown. So when he suggests a play, such as 1-10-I-Takeoff, Coach Chuck Noll listens.
Two weeks ago, I guess it was, I told them about it and we put it in," he said. "I'd noticed their corners come up close every so often, to cut off the inside move. So what John (Stallworth) and I did on our touchdown catches was fake inside, pivot and shoot outside and up the field.
"We're past the cornerback right away -- and we're open before the safety can get to us. My catch was a slight variation, because I was covered a bit to the outside.
"Itm sure Cliff expected me to go under (in front of) him. But like Cliff says, I hate to get hit. So I went by him and had me a touchdown."
As he watched that replay of poor Smith, so foolish and frustrated in the end zone, Swann could not resist saying: "The players on our team are money players. You give us the opportunity to make that catch and 10 out of 10 times we will."
For that matter, old Cardinal Smith and most other pro receivers will make that catch 100 out of 100 times. But when the pressure is most intense the Smiths and Barneses and Washingtons of the NFL end with their fists beating the turf and the Swanns and Bradshaws float into the dressing room clutching game balls.
"It was the greatest game we've ever played," Swann said. But it took the longest time to become official. From 35-17, Dallas scored and recovered an onside kick.
Along the sideline, a Steeler official said to Franco Harris: "This isn't funny anymore."
It got tense when Dallas scored again with 22 seconds left. And testy.
"Get me Hammer," Noll snapped, referring to middle linebacker Jack Lambert. "I want Hammer."
Battered, Hammer was trotting off the field toward Noll at that very moment and he said: "You want me?"
"What happened?" Noll said.
Lambert gave his coach a frosty, silent stare and walked past him. A moment later, Rocky Bleier clutched another onside kick to his chest and love vibes caught the Steelers again. A Swann song.