A Look at the Super Bowl Dominance of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth

Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth never put up huge receiving numbers throughout their careers with the Steelers, making them perhaps the most controversial of Pittsburgh’s Canton contingent. The argument in their favor always revolved around their contributions in big games, particularly the four Super Bowls they helped win between 1974 and 1979.

Sometimes great Super Bowl performances can be deceiving, and don’t necessarily mean the player in question was anything great (Dexter Jackson, Larry Brown, Desmond Howard … I’m looking at you); it can simply mean somebody had the game of their life in the biggest possible situation. And there’s some value to that. That’s not really the case with Swann and Stallworth, because they obviously had great careers in an era that wasn’t friendly to the passing game, while also playing most of their seasons on a team that was built around running the football.

But it’s still fascinating to see what they were able to do on the Super Bowl stage.

Below is the list of the wide receivers that caught at least 10 passes in their Super Bowl careers, along with the number of 20-yard plays, touchdowns and first downs.

Player Receptions 20+ Touchdowns First Downs
Jerry Rice 33 12 8 28
Andre Reed 28 5 0 13
Deion Branch 21 3 1 13
Lynn Swann 16 7 3 13
Troy Brown 16 2 0 10
Michael Irvin 16 5 2 14
Cliff Branch 14 3 2 11
Hines Ward 14 3 2 11
Don Beebe 12 2 2 7
Antonio Freeman 12 4 3 9
John Stallworth 11 5 3 6
Wes Welker 11 0 0 6
Isaac Bruce 11 3 1 10
Andre Hastings 10 0 0 5
Gary Clark 10 3 2 8
Ricky Sanders 10 4 2 6

Everybody is looking up at Jerry Rice, which isn’t all that uncommon when you’re talking about wide receivers. And admit it, you’re just as surprised as I am to see Andre Hastings on this list (yes, he caught 10 passes in Super Bowl XXX, though, he didn’t make many big plays).

The impressive thing about Swann and Stallworth isn’t the number of catches, but what they did with those catches. Of the 16 passes hauled in by Swann, 13 of them went for first downs, seven were plays of 20 yards or more and three of them were touchdowns. After not catching a pass in Super Bowl IX against Minnesota, he came back the following season against Dallas and hauled in four passes, three of which went for 32, 53 and 64 yards, which is nothing short of incredible. He returned in 1978, also against Dallas, with three 20-yard catches and an 18-yard touchdown. The only receivers in Super Bowl history to average more yards per catch than Swann’s 22.7 were Washington’s Ricky Sanders (23.4) and Stallworth (24.3).

Stallworth’s first two Super Bowl appearances were nothing out of the ordinary, catching five passes for 31 yards in 1974 and 1975. It was his last two games where he blew the top off the defense. In ’78 and ’79 Stallworth combined to catch six passes with the following results:

  1. 12-yard gain on third-and-nine
  2. 28-yard touchdown
  3. 75-yard touchdown on third-and-five
  4. 3-yard catch on second-and-four
  5. 73-yard touchdown on third-and-eight to give the Steelers a fourth quarter lead
  6. 45-yard catch on third-and-seven from his own 33-yard line

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