1979 NFL season

The 1979 NFL season was the 60th regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl XIV when the Pittsburgh Steelers repeated as champions by defeating the Los Angeles Rams 31–19 at the Rose Bowl. The Steelers became the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice.[1][2]

1979 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 1 – December 17, 1979
Start dateDecember 23, 1979
AFC ChampionsPittsburgh Steelers
NFC ChampionsLos Angeles Rams
Super Bowl XIV
DateJanuary 20, 1980
SiteRose Bowl, Pasadena, California
ChampionsPittsburgh Steelers
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 27, 1980
SiteAloha Stadium
1979 NFL season is located in the United States
AFC teams: Yellow ffff00 pog.svg West, DeepPink pog.svg Central, Green pog.svg East
1979 NFL season is located in the United States
NFC teams: Yellow ffff00 pog.svg West, DeepPink pog.svg Central, Green pog.svg East
The Steelers playing the Rams in Super Bowl XIV.


The 1979 NFL Draft was held from May 3 to 4, 1979 at New York City's Waldorf Astoria New York. With the first pick, the Buffalo Bills selected linebacker Tom Cousineau from the Ohio State University.

New OfficialsEdit

Jerry Seeman was promoted to referee succeeding Don Wedge who returned to being a deep wing official, primarily as a back judge, where he continued to officiate through 1995. Seeman served as a crew chief for 12 seasons, working Super Bowl XXIII and Super Bowl XXV before leaving the field to succeed Art McNally as NFL Vice President of Officiating from 1991 to 2001.

Major rule changesEdit

  • Whenever the quarterback is sacked, the clock will be stopped for at least five seconds and then restarted again. (The stoppage was eliminated effective the 2014 NFL season.)
  • If a fair catch is made, or signaled and awarded to a team because of interference, on the last play of a half or overtime, the period can be extended and the team can run one play from scrimmage or attempt a fair catch kick.
  • The league's jersey numbering system was modified to allow defensive linemen wear numbers 90 to 99, in addition to 60 to 79. And centers were allowed to wear 60–79, in addition to 50 to 59.
  • Players are prohibited from wearing torn or altered equipment. Tear-away jerseys are banned.
  • During kickoffs, punts, and field goal attempts, players on the receiving team cannot block below the waist.
  • The zone in which crackback blocks are prohibited is extended from 3 yards on either side of the line of scrimmage to 5.
  • Players cannot use their helmets to butt, spear, or ram an opponent. Any player who uses the crown or the top of his helmet unnecessarily will be called for unnecessary roughness.
  • In order to prevent incidents such as the Holy Roller game, the following change is made: If an offensive player fumbles during a fourth down play, or during any down played after the two-minute warning in a half or overtime, only the fumbling player can recover and/or advance the ball. This change is known as the "Ken Stabler rule" after the Oakland Raiders quarterback who made the infamous play in the Holy Roller game.[3] In officiating circles, it's known as the "Markbreit rule" after Jerry Markbreit, who was the referee for that game.
  • Uprights were extended to 30 feet above the crossbar.

Division RacesEdit

Starting in 1978, ten teams qualified for the playoffs: the winners of each of the divisions, and two wild-card teams in each conference.

National Football ConferenceEdit

Week NFC East NFC Central NFC West Wild Card Wild Card
1 Dallas, Philadelphia 1–0 3 teams 1–0 Atlanta 1–0
2 Dallas 2–0 Tampa Bay, Chicago 2–0 Atlanta 2–0
3 Dallas 3–0 Tampa Bay 3–0 Atlanta, L.A. 2–1
4 Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington 3–1 Tampa Bay 4–0 Atlanta, L.A. 2–2 Chicago 2–2 Minnesota 2–2
5 Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington 4–1 Tampa Bay 5–0 L.A. 3–2 Minnesota 3–2 4 teams 2–3
6 Dallas, Philadelphia 5–1 Tampa Bay 5–1 L.A. 4–2 Washington 4–2 3 teams 3–3
7 Dallas, Philadelphia 6–1 Tampa Bay 5–2 L.A. 4–3 Washington 5–2 5 teams 3–4
8 Dallas 7–1 Tampa Bay 6–2 L.A., New Orleans 4–4 Philadelphia, Washington 6–2 Minnesota 4–4
9 Dallas 7–2 Tampa Bay 7–2 New Orleans 5–4 Philadelphia, Washington 6–3 4 teams 4–5
10 Dallas 8–2 Tampa Bay 7–3 L.A., New Orleans 5–5 Philadelphia, Washington 6–4 Chicago 5–5
11 Dallas 8–3 Tampa Bay 8–3 New Orleans 6-5 Philadelphia, Washington 7–4 Chicago 6–5
12 Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington 8–4 Tampa Bay 9–3 L.A., New Orleans 6–6 Chicago 7–5 Giants, Minnesota 5–7
13 Philadelphia 9–4 Tampa Bay 9–4 L.A., New Orleans 7–6 Dallas, Washington 8–5 Chicago 7–6
14 Philadelphia 10–4 Tampa Bay 9–5 L.A. 8–6 Dallas, Washington 9–5 Chicago 8–6
15 Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington 10–5 Tampa Bay, Chicago 9–6 L.A. 9–6 Minnesota, New Orleans 7–8 Giants 6–9
16 Dallas 11–5 Tampa Bay 10–6 Los Angeles 9–7 Philadelphia 11–5 Chicago 10–6

American Football ConferenceEdit

Week AFC East AFC Central AFC West Wild Card Wild Card
1 Miami 1–0 3 teams 1–0 4 teams 1–0
2 Miami 2–0 Pittsburgh, Cleveland 2–0 San Diego 2–0
3 Miami 3–0 Pittsburgh, Cleveland 3–0 San Diego 3–0 3 teams 2–1
4 Miami 4–0 Pittsburgh, Cleveland 4–0 San Diego, Denver 3–1 New England, Houston 3–1 Buffalo, Kansas City 2–2
5 Miami 4–1 Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Houston 4–1 San Diego 4–1 4 teams 3–2 Jets, Oakland 2–3
6 Miami, N.E. 4–2 Pittsburgh 5–1 S.D., Denver, Kansas City 4–2 Cleveland, Houston 4–2 Buffalo, Oakland 3–3
7 Miami, N.E. 5–2 Pittsburgh, Houston 5–2 San Diego, Denver 5–2 3 teams 4–3 Buffalo, Jets 3–4
8 New England 6–2 Pittsburgh 6–2 San Diego 6–2 4 teams 5–3 3 teams 4–4
9 Miami, N.E. 6–3 Pittsburgh 7–2 San Diego, Denver 6–3 Cleveland, Houston 6–3 Oakland 5–4
10 New England 7–3 Pittsburgh 8–2 Denver 7–3 Houston 7–3 Cleveland, San Diego 7-3
11 New England 7–4 Pittsburgh 9–2 Denver 8–3 Houston 8–3 San Diego 8-3
12 New England 8–4 Pittsburgh 9–3 Denver 9–3 Houston 9-3 San Diego 9-3
13 New England 8–5 Pittsburgh 10–3 San Diego 10–3 Houston 10-3 Denver 9-4
14 Miami 9–5 Pittsburgh 11–3 Denver 10–4 Houston, San Diego 10–4 Houston, San Diego 10-4
15 Miami 10–5 Houston 11–4 San Diego 11–4 Pittsburgh 11–4 Denver 10-5
16 Miami 10–6 Pittsburgh 12–4 San Diego 12–4 Houston 11–5 Denver 10–6

Final standingsEdit


  • San Diego was the top AFC playoff seed based on head-to-head victory over Pittsburgh (1-0).
  • Seattle finished ahead of Oakland in the AFC West based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • Dallas finished ahead of Philadelphia in the NFC East based on better conference record (10–2 to Philadelphia's 9–3).
  • Tampa Bay finished ahead of Chicago in the NFC Central based on better division record (6–2 to Chicago's 5–3).
  • Chicago was the second NFC Wild Card ahead of Washington based on better net points in all games (+57 to Washington's 53).


The Buccaneers playing against the Eagles in 1979 NFC Divisional Playoff Game.
Dec 30 – Texas Stadium
3 Los Angeles 21
Dec 23 – Veterans Stadium Jan 6 – Tampa Stadium
1* Dallas 19
5 Chicago 17 3 Los Angeles 9
Dec 29 – Tampa Stadium
4 Philadelphia 27 2 Tampa Bay 0
NFC Championship
4 Philadelphia 17
Jan 20 – Rose Bowl
2* Tampa Bay 24
Divisional playoffs
Wild Card playoffs N3 Los Angeles 19
Dec 29 – San Diego Stadium
A2 Pittsburgh 31
Super Bowl XIV
4 Houston 17
Dec 23 – Astrodome Jan 6 – Three Rivers Stadium
1 San Diego 14
5 Denver 7 4 Houston 13
Dec 30 – Three Rivers Stadium
4 Houston 13 2 Pittsburgh 27
AFC Championship
3 Miami 14
2 Pittsburgh 34

Note: The Dallas Cowboys (the NFC 1 seed) did not play the Philadelphia Eagles (the 4 seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.

Statistical leadersEdit


Points scored Pittsburgh Steelers (416)
Total yards gained Pittsburgh Steelers (6,258)
Yards rushing New York Jets (2,646)
Yards passing San Diego Chargers (3,915)
Fewest points allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (237)
Fewest total yards allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3,949)
Fewest rushing yards allowed Denver Broncos (1,693)
Fewest passing yards allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2,076)


Most Valuable Player Earl Campbell, running back, Houston Oilers
Coach of the Year Jack Pardee, Washington
Offensive Player of the Year Earl Campbell, running back, Houston Oilers
Defensive Player of the Year Lee Roy Selmon, defensive end, Tampa Bay
Offensive Rookie of the Year Ottis Anderson, running back, St. Louis Cardinals
Defensive Rookie of the Year Jim Haslett, linebacker, Buffalo
Man of the Year Award Joe Greene, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh
Comeback Player of the Year Larry Csonka, running back, Miami
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Terry Bradshaw, quarterback, Pittsburgh

Coaching changesEdit



Uniform changesEdit

  • Several changes were made to the officiating uniforms, including:
    • Referees were outfitted with black identifying hats, while all other officials continued to wear white hats. This was the same as the Canadian Football League at the time, but the opposite of American high school and college football.
    • For the first time, each official's position was identified on his shirt. The position was abbreviated on the front pocket of the shirt and then spelled out on the back above the number.
    • The numbering system for officials was altered, with officials numbered separately by position (3 through 20) rather than as an entire group, making duplicate numbers among officials common.
  • The TV numbers on the Dallas Cowboys' blue jerseys moved from the sleeves to the shoulders, matching the white jerseys, which moved the TV numbers to the shoulders in 1974.
  • The New York Giants began wearing their white pants with their white jerseys, discontinuing their blue pants
  • The Washington Redskins replaced their gold pants with burgundy pants with their white jerseys and white pants with their burgundy jerseys. The shade of burgundy was also darkened.
  • The San Diego Chargers replaced the blue and white stripe on the yellow pants with a white lightning bolt outlined in blue.


This was the second year under the league's four-year broadcast contracts with ABC, CBS, and NBC to televise Monday Night Football, the NFC package, and the AFC package, respectively.

Fran Tarkenton began serving as a fill-in color commentator for ABC, while Bryant Gumbel became the sole host of NBC's pregame show NFL '79.[4]

Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen replaced Curt Gowdy and John Brodie as NBC's lead commentary team. Rather than demote Gowdy, NBC traded him away to CBS for Don Criqui. With Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier remaining as CBS' lead commentary team, and Vin Scully and George Allen as the #2 team, Gowdy was paired with Hank Stram as the network's #3 team.[5]




  • March 10- Beattie Feathers, age 69, Running Back for the Chicago Bears from 1934-1937, Brooklyn Dodgers from 1938-1939, and Green Bay Packers in 1940. First player in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (1,004)in 1934.


  • June 22- Troy Archer, age 24, Defensive Tackle for the New York Giants from 1976-1978


  • October 5- Ken Strong, age 73, Receiver, Defensive Back, and Placekicker for the Staten Island Stapletons from 1929-1932, and New York Giants from 1933-1947. Inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.


  1. ^ "Colts open Super Bowl defense". September 6, 2007. the Steelers, the only team to ever repeat twice as Super Bowl champions
  2. ^ "Steelers History: A Tradition of Excellence". Steelers.com. Archived from the original on February 18, 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2014. Yet another standard was set the following year when the 1979 Steelers defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 31-19, in Super Bowl XIV to make them ... the only team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice
  3. ^ Rules of the Name, or How The Emmitt Rule Became The Emmitt Rule Archived September 30, 2010, at the Wayback Machine (URL last accessed March 1, 2006)
  4. ^ Brulia, Tim. "A CHRONOLOGY OF PRO FOOTBALL ON TELEVISION: Part 2" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers.
  5. ^ "Once upon a time, NBC traded Curt Gowdy for Don Criqui". Awful Announcing. October 8, 2014.