Greatest stat in football? The 1970s Steelers win total-yardage battle in 15 straight playoff games

        Posted: 2012

Even the losses were glorious, in their own depressing way.

Everyone talks about the 4 Super Bowls of the Steel Curtain, but nobody talks about a possibly greater accomplishment: Outgaining opponents in 15 consecutive playoff games.

It began in the Dec. 22, 1974, AFC Divisional Playoffs against the Buffalo Bills, a 438-264 thrashing. Then came the landmark AFC Championship at Oakland (319 to 278) that illustrated just how this team would dominate for the rest of the decade: March up and down the field like no others, and turn the ball over and botch the special teams just enough to keep the games close.

The streak continued through Super Bowl XIV (393 to 301) and ended in the 1982 playoffs at home, vs. San Diego, as the Chargers piled up 479 yards on an eroding Curtain, enough to offset the Steeler offense's 422.

Total yardage can be misleading, often pumped up when a team trails by wide margins and starts passing against prevent defenses. Yet it's a highly accurate gauge of a team's general strength and factors out unpredictable turnovers and special teams dynamics that disproportionately impact game outcomes. The only "Yeah, but" in the Steelers' streak is the 1976 AFC Championship Game, a one-sided 24-7 defeat in Oakland. Some yards were compiled after the final score was reached. But that game largely turned on one late-2nd-quarter drive that put Oakland up 17-7. The Steel Curtain still held Oakland to 220 yards (63 passing), and the offense, playing without Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, scored more first-half points than it did in the previous 2 AFC Championship Games.

Another loss, against Denver in the 1977 Divisional Playoffs, is scary only in that it could've happened in several other playoff games. At 304 yards to 258, the Steelers offense regularly moved the ball and scored on the mighty Orange Crush defense. Yet 3 catastrophic turnovers and a disastrous blocked punt were more than enough for Denver to win the game.

The most impressive game — and the NFL's most impressive playoff performance of the 1970s and its only 40-point playoff game that decade — was the Dec. 19, 1976, 40-14 demolition of the Baltimore Colts, a 526-170 yardage differential that wasn't even that close.

Who else comes close? The 1992-'95 Dallas Cowboys won total yardage in 10 straight playoff games ... until the 1995 Steelers, of all teams, stopped them in Super Bowl XXX.

The San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s had a string of 6. The Packers of the 1960s peaked at 4 games, as did the Patriots of 2003-04.

Most records are broken. This one likely never will be.

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