Coach Chuck Noll wanted to run the ball. Terry Bradshaw wanted to kick a field goal. So the Pittsburgh Steleers passed for the winning touchdown.
Bradshaw's third touchdown pass of the game, a two-yarder to John Stallworth with 1:04 gone in overtime, gave the Steelers a 26-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals today.
"I don't think anyone wanted his play," Noll said of Bradshaw's touchdown pass, which came just one play after Dwayne Woodruff's 30-yard interception return. "But he (Bradshaw) sold us and it worked. We were thinking about going into our goal line offense."
"Initially, I wanted to kick a field goal," said Bradshaw, who passed for 298 yards. "Why waste time? But Chuck wanted to run the ball . . . and I didn't feel comfortable running it. Too many things can happen."
Bradshaw said that as soon as the Steelers came out of the huddle, he knew the play would work. "When we lined up and I saw the coverage, I knew it was a touchdown," he said.
The game went into overtime because defensive end Tom Beasley blocked a potential game-winning 38-yard field goal attempt by the Bengals' Jim Breech with five seconds left in regulation.
On the third play of the extra period, the Steelers blitzed and Ken Anderson threw under heavy pressure; Woodruff intercepted and returned the ball to the Cincinnati two-yard line.
The Steelers then called timeout to decide what to do, after which Bradshaw made his winning pass. Bradshaw said that once he decided to go for the pass, Noll "didn't argue. He might as well not, because I'm going to throw it anyway."
Anderson, the 1981 AFC most valuable player, completed 27 of 38 attempts for 323 yards. But he also threw three interceptions, two of them to Donnie Shell; those two interceptions led to scores that allowed Pittsburgh to take a 10-3 halftime lead.
Bradshaw completed 29 of 42 attempts and didn't throw an interception.
Cris Collinsworth had 11 receptions for 144 yards for the Bengals (1-1).
"You saw two of the premier quarterbacks in the game today," Collinsworth said. "You put those two on the field and there are going to be a lot of footballs in the air. This game couldn't get much closer."
The victory was the second in a row by the Steelers (2-0) over a 1981 playoff team. The Steelers had upset the Dallas Cowboys, 36-28, in their opener Monday night.
Today, they rallied to gain a 20-20 tie when Gary Anderson, acquired the week before the season began from the Buffalo Bills, kicked a 42-yard field goal with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Beasley then sent the game into overtime by blocking the field-goal attempt by Breech, who had earlier kicked a 31-yard field goal with 4:44 remaining to rally the Bengals to a 20-17 lead.
Cincinnati had trailed, 17-10, going into the fourth quarter. The Bengals had pulled into a 17-17 tie early in the fourth quarter when Pete Johnson ran nine yards for a touchdown.
"It was a game of big plays," said Noll. "We had some, they had some. Thus, it made it a great game."
The Steelers, who now have five victories and one tie in six overtime games, won despite rushing for just 26 yards on 17 attempts. Pittsburgh is now unbeaten in six games, extending through the preseason.
Cincinnati, which had beaten the Steelers four consecutive times, dating to 1979, rushed for just 69 yards on 25 attempts as Anderson was forced to go to the air to move his team.