In the 1970s the rivalry of the decade belonged to the Raiders and Steelers. In the early 1980s, both were still two of the more dominant teams in the AFC. These two teams always met, for what seemed like, a trip to the AFC Championship Game or Super Bowl. On New Year’s Day in 1984 they would meet once again for a trip to the Conference championship.
The Los Angeles Raiders were led into this playoff contest by QB Jim Plunkett and RB Marcus Allen. Pittsburgh had their own offensive weapons, but were missing their Hall of Fame QB, Terry Bradshaw, who was out due to an injury. There was not a lack of stars in this game and fans were ready for kickoff.
A hazy L.A. skyline was the backdrop for this contest. Pittsburgh won the coin toss and elected to receive, in hopes of jumping to an early lead against the Raiders. The Raider defense had other ideas. They would force Pittsburgh into a three-and-out. Raiders return specialist Greg Pruitt fielded the punt at the Raider 38 and brought it back to their 46. Prime position for the Silver and Black attack to get going.
Even though it was the 1980s, the Steelers defense was still a tough one to crack. They forced the Raiders into their own three-and-out. Pittsburgh regained possession at their own 21, but would quickly move downfield. A 15-yard run by Steelers RB Frank Pollard and a 44-yard pass from QB Cliff Stoudt to WR Wayne Capers put the Steelers at the Raiders 20-yard line. Pittsburgh got as close as the L.A. one-yard line before settling for a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
The Raiders next drive started at their 20-yard line. A 21-yard pass from Plunkett to TE Todd Christensen was followed by an 11-yard pass to WR Cliff Branch, which put the Silver and Black inside Steelers territory. The Raiders drive would stall at the Pittsburgh 48 and they would be forced to punt once again. Ray Guy’s punt landed out of bounds at the Steelers 14.
Stoudt tried to get things going for the Steelers offense, but a four-yard pass to WR Calvin Sweeney was intercepted by Raiders CB Lester Hayes. Hayes returned the INT 18 yards for a Raider touchdown. With the score now Raiders 7 Steelers 3, Pittsburgh took the ball at their 20 and looked to answer with a score of their own.
The Steelers offense, led by Stoudt, drove the ball inside Raiders territory at the 47 but two incomplete passes and a fumbled snap forced Pittsburgh into another punt. The Raiders were only able to get off two Marcus Allen runs of two and 13 yards to close the first quarter.
This Silver and Black picked up right where they left off, with four pass completions by Plunkett of nine (to Christensen), 17 (Allen), 25 and nine (both to Branch) which brought the Raiders to the Pittsburgh five. Marcus Allen went over right guard for a four-yard touchdown run to finish the drive.
Pittsburgh’s next possession left them still trying to solve the Raiders defense. The defense, led by Hayes and Mike Haynes, forced another three-and-out. This time the Raiders offense could not respond with a score as they would have to punt. Action settled down as both teams traded punts for much of the second quarter.
When the Raiders got the ball back with 1:02 left to play, QB Jim Plunkett and RB Marcus Allen marched the offense down the field. After a 21-yard run by Marcus Allen and a 17-yard pass from Plunkett to Branch, K Chris Bahr came in with 10 seconds left to nail a 45-yard field goal. Going into the half the Raiders were leading the visiting Steelers 17-3.
Already up by two touchdowns, Plunkett and the Raiders looked to increase their lead in the second half. Starting at their 28-yard line, the Raiders used a balanced run-pass attack to carve up the Steelers defense. With passes of 18, 14, 13 and 11 mixed with runs of 3, 10, 7 and 4 the Raiders found themselves knocking on the door. It took a spinning nine-yard run by RB Kenny King to break this playoff game wide open.
After the Raiders defense forced Pittsburgh into another punt, Allen stuck the proverbial dagger in the hopes of Steelers fans everywhere. Starting at the Raider 42 and after a nine-yard run put them at the Steeler 49, Allen sprinted 49 yards for his second touchdown of the day. With the score 31-3 hope was all but lost for the men clad in white, yellow and black.
Pittsburgh put together a valiant drive on their next possession. Moving from their 25 to their 42 after a run by Stoudt and a 13-yard pass to Sweeney, the Steelers found themselves driving. It took one more play, a pass from Stoudt to WR John Stallworth, to score Pittsburgh’s first touchdown of the day. However, the joy was short-lived as Plunkett and the Raiders took the field.
With 5:16 remaining in the third quarter, Coach Flores dialed up plays to not only run out the clock but to end all hopes of a miraculous Pittsburgh comeback. Short run after short run, with quick passes to Christensen and Allen, the Raiders carved a hole in the heart of the Steelers defense. Down at the Pittsburgh two-yard line, Flores called upon RB Frank Hawkins to bulldoze his way in for a two-yard touchdown run.
Three quarters of football gone, it was the Los Angeles Raiders 38 – Pittsburgh Steelers 10. It seemed to the thousands of fans in attendance, and viewers at home, the game was over. That would be the case as the fourth quarter was filled with numerous punts and failed fourth down conversions. The game would end with the Raiders on top 38-10.
New Year’s Day in 1984 saw an L.A. Raider team put up 38 points against the rival Steelers. The Raiders would go on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in the AFC Championship game for a trip to the Super Bowl. There would go on to defeat the Washington Redskins and captured their third World Championship of Professional Football.