Greg Lloyd: the former Pro Bowl linebacker has this to say about Pittsburgh’s heartbreaking loss to Dallas in Super Bowl 30: “that was my one chance” – The Game I’ll Never Forget
WHEN YOU’VE JUST LOST A Super Bowl, there isn’t anything anyone can say to you. After our Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl 30, people were like, “Hey, man, glad you made it an interesting game.” You want to pause because you’re not sure how to take that. What do you say?
I know that a lot of the Super Bowls are blowouts, but we expected to win. Unless they were handing out runner-up trophies, second place just wasn’t good enough for us. We were thrilled that people were happy and got their money’s worth, but we wanted to win the ballgame. I’m sure if I had been a spectator and had been sitting at home watching on television, that probably would have been my viewpoint. But as a player, you don’t look at it that way. As I said, we expected to beat Dallas. In the second half, Dallas had 61 yards of total offense to our 201 yards. You look back at that and say, “How does a team beat you when all they have is 61 yards total offense for 30 minutes of the game?”
Long before that, though, a lot of people were asking a different question: “How did the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl?” Cornerback Rod Woodson was hurt in the opener, and midway through the season we were just 44. A lot of people wondered if we were even a playoff team.
Rod was one of our leaders on the defense, so when he went down, a lot of people were like, “Oh, my gosh, Rod Woodson is hurt. You talk about going to the Super Bowl? How are you going to get it done?”
Now you had to go into team meetings and hear, “listen, we’re going to miss Woody. I’m going to miss Woody as much as you guys will. But, hey, it’s time now for everybody to step their game up. We don’t have time to sit around and wonder if we had him. If, if, if. We have games to play. Regardless of whether we like it or not, Woody isn’t going to play. We have guys in the back that have to step it up, and we have guys in the front that need to step it up, including even linemen. We need to step it up because we’re trusting a younger player to get back there and play that position, so we have to get off the ball and not give the quarterback all day long to pick those guys apart.”
Everyone did a great job of doing that. You almost felt like you had to baby-sit a lot of these guys, but one of the nice things was that we had more than one leaden Once Woody went down, a lot of people looked to safety Carnell Lake for leadership. Then there were our linebackers: me, Kevin Greene, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Jason Gildon. You’re looking at a bunch of Pro Bowlers–we had a slew of players who could step it up at any time.
We got together and said, “Hey, we’ll give you all the help we can give you, just as long as we talk.” It looked bleak, but we used to tell each other, “Nobody has faith in us but us. Nobody believes in the Pittsburgh Steelers except the 53 guys out on the field right now.”
We probably became a lot closer than we had been the season before, in 1994. After losing in the AFC Championship Game in `94, a lot of guys stayed around and worked out together. But then when we lost Rod, we were like, “Strike one. What’s next?”
Things started to work out, though. Guys started gelling, and Woody gave advice on what to do and not to do. It was good to have him around, even though he wasn’t playing. He could give players ideas about what was going on, what to expect.
The Cowboys had a great team that season. They had the biggest offensive line in the league, featuring Nate Newton and Erik Williams. We, meanwhile, probably had one of the smallest defensive lines, but we depended on our speed. Our defensive coaches–Dom Capers, Marvin Lewis, Dick LeBeau–did a great job. When I mention those names today, we’re talking about head coaches and the most highly respected defensive coordinators.
They made sure we were prepared, sometimes to the point where it was annoying and we would have to say, “Hey, we’ve got it. Now get out of the huddle.” I spent more time in practice telling Marvin Lewis, “Will you stay out of my huddle? If we screw up something, you can come out here, pull your hair out, stand on your head. Until then, will you stay out of our huddle?”
Obviously, we were well prepared for the Cowboys in Super Bowl 30. And like I said, we dominated the second half. We were losing 20-7 after three quarters, but we narrowed it to 20-17 in the final quarter what’s more, we had the momentum.
But the whole game turned on the two interceptions Neil O’Donnell threw in the second half. That was the whole game right there, especially the second interception late in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys returned it down near the goal line and then scored, giving them a 27-17 lead. That was it.
Amazingly, O’Donnell had led the league in the regular season in `95 with the fewest interceptions per attempt. Part of you wants to kill him, and part of you says, “That’s just part of the game.” You look back and say, “Man, most people only get one chance to come here-one chance at it.” In my case, unless I end up in the league as a coach or something, that was my one chance.
But as I revisit that season, there are fond memories. We came together as a team, fought, and never gave up. Everybody gave everything they had. When the game was over, I looked in the guys’ eyes. Some people were crying. To me, that said enough. These guys wanted it as much as I did. Everybody laid it on the line, and that’s all you can ask.
RELATED ARTICLE: The tough guy persona remains.
GREG LLOYD USED BRUTE STRENGTH, deceptive quickness, and relentless drive to become one of football’s most effective linebackers in the 1980s and ’90s.
One of the secrets to his success was the martial arts discipline tae kwon do, a form of unarmed self-defense that requires intense training of the body and the mind. “I hurt my knee in my first year in the league [in 1988],” says Lloyd, now 37, who retired in 1998 following 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and one with the Carolina Panthers. “As pad of my rehab, I had to stay in Pittsburgh. So I saw Terry Long out on the field one day. For a big offensive lineman, I thought he was very flexible and very quick. We got to talking, and he introduced me to tae kwon do. I kind of just said, `Hey, I’m going to check this out.’ So along with my regular rehab, I went over there and signed up for it.”
What started as a passing interest has become a passion. If he doesn’t study or teach it four or five days a week, he says it feels “like something’s missing. I got involved just to do the rehab, but I got so into it, it became a workout. It wasn’t a substitute for my football, but it was a little bonus.”
Today, Lloyd’s children share his enthusiasm for martial arts. Gregory II, 13, just earned his black belt; Tiana, 10, is a blue stripe; and Jhames, 7, is a green stripe. Says Lloyd, “They’re all getting there.”
As an NFL linebacker, Lloyd terrorized ball carriers until a staph infection in his ankle spelled the end of his playing days, “I’ve had five surgeries on it,” says Lloyd. “There are days when I can walk on it and teach [tae kwon do] class, and there are days when I have to sit on my behind and watch.”
Lloyd is one of the links in a great line of Steelers linebackers. He was the team’s most valuable player in 1991 and `94 and played in five straight Pro Bowls (1991-95). He also is fifth on the team’s all-time sack list with 53.5. His best season was 1994, when be had 10 sacks and had a streak of six games with at least one quarterback takedown.
Lloyd hopes to someday return to the NFL as a coach. He thinks some of his fierce competitiveness could rub off on players.
“There are kids out there that I see who don’t have a clue,” Lloyd says. “One year a guy comes in, next year he’s gone. That’s simply because with all the money out there now, I don’t think there’s anybody who can grab these guys and shake them and make them understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Line up, get it done. People don’t have to like you as long you give 100%. Those are the kinds of things I can offer players.
“I haven’t pursued coaching. When you played the game the way I did, people are still a little intimidated by me. That can be kind of a boulder, but you know me: I don’t let anything get in my way.”
Greg Lloyd’s Most Memorable Game
Greg Lloyd’s Most Memorable Game
Super Bowl 30; January 28, 1996; Sun Devil Stadium; Tempe, Ariz.
Dallas Cowboys 10 3 7 7-27
Pittsburgh Steelers 0 7 0 10-17
Scoring Cowboys Steelers
Dallas–Boniol, 42-yard field goal 3 0
Dallas–Novacek, 3-yard pass from Aikman 10 0
Dallas–Boniol, 35-yard field goal 13 0
Pittsburgh–Thigpen, 6-yard pass from O’Donnell 13 7
(N. Johnson kick)
Dallas–E. Smith, 1-yard run (Boniol kick) 20 7
Pittsburgh–N. Johnson, 46-yard field goal 20 10
Pittsburgh–Morris, 1-yard run (N. Johnson kick) 20 17
Dallas—E. Smith, 4-yard run (Boniol kick) 27 17
Team statistics Cowboys Steelers
First downs 15 25
Rushing yards (net) 56 103
Passes (completions-attempts-interceptions) 15-23-0 28-49-3
Passing yards (net) 198 207
Punts-average 5-38 4-45
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties-yards 5-25 2-15
Cowboys: E. Smith 18 rushes for 49 yards, Aikman 4-minus-3, Johnston
2-8, K. Williams 1-2. Steelers: Morris 19-73, Pegram 6-15, Stewart
4-15, O’Donnell 1-0, Williams 1-0.
Cowboys: Aikman 15 completions, 23 attempts, 209 yards, 0
interceptions, 1 touchdown. Steelers: O’Donnell 28-49-239-3-1.
Cowboys: Irvin 5 receptions for 76 yards, Novacek 5-50, K. Williams
2-29, Sanders 1-47, Johnston 1-4, E. Smith 1-3.
Steelers: Hastings 10-98, Mills 8-78, Thigpen 3-19, Morris 3-18,
Holliday 2-19, J. Williams 2-7.
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