When the announcement was made that the American Football League would merge with the NFL on June 8, 1966, the 16-team NFL needed to balance itself with the AFL by sending three NFL franchises to the newly formed 10-team American League Conference. At a special owners meeting in 1969, Commissioner Pete Rozelle locked the doors and told owners in attendance that nobody would be allowed to leave until three teams agreed to move to the new conference.
It was determined that certain NFC clubs would be exempt from going to the AFC because of geographical reasons. So, the New York Giants were safe because of the New York Jets, the Cowboys with the Houston Oilers, and the San Francisco 49ers were excused because of the cross-bay Raiders.
The Steelers became an AFC team in 1970 and early in that first season they would come to old Mile High. On September 27, 1970, the Denver Broncos hosted Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the very first time.
Broncos quarterback Pete Liske started the game and likely handed Willis Crenshaw the ball on his 1-yard rush for the first touchdown between these two franchises. Tacking on the PAT, kicker Bobby Howfield made it 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Steelers took the lead on a Dick Hoak rushing touchdown and a field goal. Kicking for the Steelers, it is notable, was current Denver Broncos Ring-of-Famer Gene Mingo. After concluding his career with Denver in 1964, Mingo bounced around the league playing sometimes for multiple teams in a season, including Oakland, Miami, Washington, and finally the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the third quarter, Mingo kicked another field goal bringing the Steeler lead to 13-7. Broncos linebacker Dave Washington sacked Terry Bradshaw in the end zone for a safety, cutting the Steeler lead to just 4-points. The Broncos were the last to score in the game when Steve Tensi hit Billy Van Heusen for a 38-yard touchdown pass (Howfield PAT).
In a scoreless fourth quarter, the Broncos defense held and the Denver Broncos emerged the victor in this first ever matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, 16-13.
The things that jump off the box score to me is that Pete Liske started the game, but it was Steve Tensi who finished with that touchdown pass to Billy Van Heusen. In all, the Broncos completed just 12-passes in 25 attempts for 178-total passing yards between the two of them. Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little struggled in this game going just 54-yards in 24 attempts.
This Sunday, the Broncos and Steelers will face off for the 34th time. Denver is 20-12-1 all-time, including playoffs, against Pittsburgh. Here’s hoping that the Broncos can add to their legacy of Steeler domination.
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