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fran vs. the stee! Curtain


When Super Bowl IX gets under way Sunday in New Orleans, the most vital matchup will be between the Pittsburgh Steelers' massive defensive linemen and the Minnesota Vikings' adroit quarterback, Fran Tarkenton. Someone else may star—perhaps Pittsburgh's explosive Terry Bradshaw, maybe the Vikings' versatile Chuck Foreman—but the battle in the backfield between the scrambling Tarkenton and the onrushing Steelers will be the key to the most treasured victory in professional football.

Tarkenton has 14 years of experience to draw on as he plots how to get the Minnesota offense moving.

Pittsburgh rookie Lynn Swann poses a threat returning punts, catching passes and even running reverses.

Viking John Gilliam is a dangerous deep receiver. He averaged more than 20 yards on his 26 catches in 1974.

Tarkenton (above, left) will require a lot of protection against the Steelers' relentless rush when he retreats to throw. When pressured, he likes to flip short passes to Foreman (44). Bradshaw (12, below) is more likely to run if he can't find a receiver or is chased out of the pocket.

Pittsburgh's redoubtable front four and its quick linebackers led the league in sacking opposing quarterbacks, forced numerous interceptions and put a tight clamp on the Buffalo and Oakland running attacks in the playoffs.

Minnesota's Dave Osborn (right), a 10-year veteran who reclaimed his starting position this year, ran for 514 yards, his finest showing since the 1970 season.

Foreman (left) led the Vikings in rushing with 777 yards and all NFC running backs with 53 pass receptions. He also led the entire NFL with 15 touchdowns.

Steeler Rocky Bleier (left) ran for 98 yards, his best performance as a pro, against Oakland in the AFC championship game. He is also a rattling blocker.

Pittsburgh's Franco Harris (right) finished strongly for his second 1,000-yard season. He gained 111 yards and scored two big touchdowns against the Raiders.

Sporting a new beard and a new confidence, Bradshaw could lead the Steelers to their first NFL championship.