What the Rams would need
Pasadena, Calif. — When all their intangibles are locked away in a closet the Los Angeles Rams ( 9-7 during the regular season) do not look like a team capable of winning anything as important as Super Bowl XIV on Sunday.
They will be playing a superior organization, the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who have been to the National Football League's title game three times in the past five years and won every time.
For the Rams to win they would have to shut down the Steeler's tremendously well- balanced attack, get all the breaks, have a minimum of turnovers, and probably put at least 21 points on the scoreboard.
Stranger things have happened, of course, but seldom to a Pittsburgh offense headed by quarterback Terry Bradshaw, running back Franco Harris, and wide receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann.
Bradshaw came of age some time ago in the NFL, and if he can't make the big play the conventional way, he'll make it by scrambling. He simply has t oo many options available to him to have a bad day.
Defensively, the Steelers have been together a long time. They have one of the game's best weapons against the run in L. C. Greenwood, a 6 ft. 4 in., 250 -pound defensive end with hands like claws. Nobody knows what the Steelers feed Greenwood, but it doesn't come in a can, and if it did he wouldn't bother with an opener to get at it.
As a unit, linebackers Jack Lambert, Robin Cole, and Dennis Winston pursue opposing running backs like a Mafia collection agency. And Pittsburgh's four deep defenders (Ron Johnson, Donnie Shell, J. T. Thomas, and Bell Blount) have great instincts for any football that is put into the air.
Enormous credit also belongs to Coach Chuck Noll, whose stereotyped image as a quiet and conservative leader belies the fires that burn inside. This is one Noll who, as a strategist, has grown into a mountain.
Nobody has to tell Chuck that you score touchdowns with offense, but that you win championships with defense!
Where does all this leave the Rams? On paper, nowhere. But in the area of intangibles they have a couple of pluses that they might turn into an advantage.
Since few expect them to win, the usual Super Bowl pressure is somewhat lessened. They can gamble on offense, defense, or both, lose big or small, and probably not be criticized.
The one area where the Rams seem to match the Steelers is on defense. They have people like Jack and Jim Youngblood, Jack (Hacksaw) Reynolds, Rod Perry, etc., who can make the big plays and aren't easily fooled.
But they won't be able to make them for an entire game against a team like the Steelers if the L.A. offense can't control the football for nearly as many minutes as Pittsburgh's. Even super defensive teams need a certain amount of rest.
That's the key for Los Angeles and its inexperienced quarterback, Vince Ferragamo -- controlling the football and getting some points on the scoreboard.
The way Ferragamo performed against Dallas and Tampa Bay in the playoffs was little short of amazing. But if Vince isn't doing the job early against Pittsburgh, Coach Ray Malavasi almost has to go to backup QB Bob Lee, a veteran free agent who joined the team late in the season.
Lee is much more mobile than Ferragamo, and has had previous Super Bowl experience with Minnesota, but he hasn't played under game conditions in a while and his timing could be off.
The Rams have a great breakaway threat in Wendell Tyler, who gained more than 1,000 yards during the regular season and also ran well in the playoffs. But the fact that Tyler has a habit of carrying the football carelessly -- like an apple on the end of a limb -- has often gotten him into trouble. L.A.4s other power on the ground, Cullen Bryant, is basically a pick-and- shovel runner -- tough but predictable.
Ferragamo's best receivers, Preston Dennard and Billy Waddy, have a lot of speed and will have to be watched carefully. But they could be of no use at all if the Steeler pass rush can pressure Ferragamo out of the pocket.
The consensus seems to be that the Rams, if their defense plays well, can make the game tight for at least a half and maybe well into the third period. But after that the show should belong to the Steelers.