Classic Games – Raiders Comeback to Defeat Steelers in Season Opener in 1976

There were many classic playoff games between the Raiders and the Steelers in the seventies and eighties. In all they met 6 times in the Playoffs between 1972 to 1983, including 3 consecutive AFC championship games from 1974 to 1976. They split those playoff games with 3 wins going to each team. In 4 of those 6 playoff games the winner went on to win the Super Bowl. Outside of the Immaculate reception none were close games. All three AFC Championships were decided by two scores or more. In the divisional playoff games in 1973 and 1983 the Raiders blew the Steelers out. 

In all the team two teams met 13 times during their heydays from 1972 to 1983 with the Raiders winning 8 times and the Steelers 5. After losing 5 of the first 7 meetings from 1972 to 1975 the Raiders won 6 straight against the Steelers from 1976 to 1983 during which time they also won 3 super bowls.

This Sunday the Raiders play the Steelers in their home opener. The most forgotten and perhaps the most classic of all the great games of the legendary Raider and Steeler super bowl teams of the 1970s and 1980s was the 1976 season opener.

The Steelers dominated from the start running all over the Raiders to the tune of 196 yards and adding another 253 in the air from Terry Bradshaw. They stuffed the Raiders run game and picked off Ken Stabler 4 times. 

With just over 4 minutes left in the game the Steelers lead 28-14. So you would figure against the vaunted Steel Curtain defence there was no way the Raiders could come back right? Wrong.

The comeback began when Franco Harris fumbled at the Raiders 21 and Otis Sistrunk recovered.  Stabler began to work his magic with a circus catch by Dave Casper and strikes to Fred Biletnikoff.  The touchdown drive ended with a 10 yard TD to casper. 

The Steelers got the ball and attempted to run out the clock up 28-21.

The Raiders forced a three and out, partially blocked a punt and Stabler hit Branch on a crossing route which got them down to the two yard line. Stabler ran in a bootleg to tie the game. The Snake offset his 4 ints with 342 passing 3 tds (two to Casper one to Biletnikoff) and a rushing TD. 

Bradshaw turned over the ball on the next drive and Frank Steinfort kicked the game winning FG and the Raiders won 31-28 in a dramatic comeback setting the scene for their 1976 super bowl winning campaign. 

The game was also infamous for a George Atkinson hit on Lynn Swann. Atkinson didn’t try to tackle Franco O’Harris on a run, instead running away from Harris and clotheslining Swann knocking him out of the game. This hit led to Chuck Noll taking the Raiders to court and referring to them as the criminal element.

Below is the full game, which you can watch on Youtube. The Raiders comeback starts around the 1 hour and 40 minute mark. Enjoy!