Personally, I play every game hard and violently, but when I go against the Pittsburgh Steelers a different style of aggression seems to come over me. In fact, an intensely aggressive mood sweeps through the entire Raider team. The same feeling oversomes the Pittsburgh players as they ready themselves to go against us. Both Pittsburgh and Oakland consider themselves the best in professional football, and when we meet we spend a violent Sunday afternoon trying to convince the other team of that point. With stakes so high I would rather get burned ten times against the New York Giants than once against the Steelers.
My collision with Lynn Swann was, I admit, premeditated. I saw him coming across the middle for a pass, and even though Bradshaw had thrown the ball in a different direction, Swann was still a fair and legal target. I don’t want Lynn Swann or anyone in my area trying to catch passes. Most receivers know I earn my money and reputation with devastating hits. I don’t care whether the receiver is just a decoy or the primary target, I’m going to make him pay the price. A receiver needs concentration to succeed. If by using demoralizing hits I can get the receiver to start thinking about me instead of catching the ball, I will win the battle.
Swann was a legal target, and so was I. What I mean is that on that particular play Lynn Swann could have blocked me. On the other hand, I had the right to take him out of the play. I admit it was full speed, and I did hit him high with a Hook, but still, it was legal.
Pittsburgh Steelers are far from passive and they are not easily intimidated. Then again the Raiders have a reputation for being a rather surly bunch that thrives on brutal contact themselves. When two football giants such as the Steelers and the Raiders get together, there isn’t any backing down on either side.
The game started the way I figured–violent and brutal. When playing against the Steelers or any of the physical teams, one comes to expect solid contact and flaring tempers, but somehow this game immediately started getting out of hand.
Later in the game I spotted Lynn Swann non-chalantly roaming over the middle, and I drew a bead on his rib cage. But then I saw George Atkinson homing in on Lynn, and with one quick swipe of a forearm, George sort of pulled Lynn down using a club-like action across the head and side of the neck. Lynn went down and George moved in toward the ball carrier. The shot to Swann was by no means an overpowering one. It was nothing, absolutely nothing. I could see Lynn running back and forth behind the Steelers’ bench afterward.
Even without Swann and Stallworth , the Steelers went in for another score and built up their lead to 28-14. Bradshaw had a great time running up and down the sidelines showing the ball to Raider fans. Evidently, Terry thought the game was over even though there were still over five minutes on the clock. Unfortunately for Bradshaw and the entire Steeler team, five minutes were more than enough for us to come back.
When Kenny Stabler got his hands on the football, he started performing feats of magic. Within a minutes the scoreboard was lighting up and now read, Steelers 28, Raiders 21…
We stopped the Steelers on their next series and they kept us in our own territory when we got the ball back. Madden decided to kick the ball deep and ask the defense to come up with the big play. After three running plays the Steelers were faced with a a 4th down and ten.
In a matter of seconds the game was tied, but the Steelers were going to have another chance. Bradshaw was under fire; he threw a wild pass into the secondary and linebacker Willie Hall made a great interception. The game was over and the Raider won, 31-28. Some of the Steelers warned us that they would return for the playoffs later in the year. Actually, there was a lot of truth in that statement because the Raiders and Steelers usually do meet in the playoff games.
I have never cried about anyone hitting me too hard or getting blind-sided, because it’s a chance I take every time I suit up to play football. Even when Mansfield speared me in the championship game of 1975 and my knee was injured, I didn’t complain. Even when I was hit in Denver after the play was over with a cheap shot that cost me knee surgery, I didn’t complain.