Jack Ham played 178 NFL games in his Hall of Fame career but the easiest one he ever played put the first Super Bowl ring on his hand.
That was the 1975 Super Bowl against the Minnesota Vikings – and that’s the game Jack Ham will discuss today on the Talk of Fame Network’s “5 Games” podcast. We’ve already visited with Jack about the Immaculate Reception game and the 1974 AFC championship game against the Oakland Raiders. His Pittsburgh Steelers won the first NFL championship in the franchise’s 42-year history with that 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings ran the ball more than they threw it on the way to an NFC championship in 1974, riding the legs of Chuck Foreman and Dave Osborn to a second consecutive Super Bowl. But the Steelers prided themselves on their run defense, allowing an average of an NFL-low 3.4 yards per carry and an AFC-low seven touchdowns.
In a game that pitted strength against strength, Ham liked Pittsburgh’s chances.
“We had that stunt 4-3 (defense) with Joe Greene at 285 pounds and Ernie Holmes near 290 (at tackles), Ham said. “They tried to run the football right up the middle against our defense. You’re not going to make many yards that way. It might have been the easiest game I ever played. I think I had one or two tackles because they were trying to pound the football inside and it just wasn’t happening. We were dominant defense. There wasn’t anybody’s running game that was going to be effective against us.”
The Steel Curtain defense held the Vikings to 17 yards rushing, 119 total yards, nine first downs and without a touchdown that day. Minnesota’s only touchdown came on a blocked punt return.
Ham talked about how the 1974 NFL draft that produced four Hall of Famers – Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster – put the Steelers over the top as a Super Bowl contender. But one rookie in particular was the key.
“Chuck (coach Noll) felt you could win championships with an outstanding defense,” Ham said. “So he made sure (in drafts) we got that the pieces we needed. With Andy Russell on the outside, myself on the other side and our front four, we had some dominant people there. But we needed that middle linebacker and Lambert fit in like a glove.
“You’ve got to realize that Lambert was a rookie but he was making all the calls for our front and also for our secondary. Everybody talks about Lambert and how tough and mean he was. But I admire Jack Lambert because of how smart he was. That year our mental mistakes were held to a minimum.”
Ham, who was voted to the NFL's 75th anniversary team, also talked about the AFC road to Super Bowl always leading through either Oakland or Pittsburgh, the fluky nature of that Super Bowl which saw a safety and a blocked punt and the one major concern the Steelers had in facing the Vikings.
In the next podcast, we’ll visit with Ham about Pittsburgh’s second Super Bowl victory – that 20-17 triumph over the Dallas Cowboys. Subscribe to our podcast and listen for free at @ iTunes or VokalNow.com