Pittsburgh Steelers: 1976
After winning two Super Bowls in 1974 and 1975, most expected the Pittsburgh Steelers were in line to become the first franchise to ever win three in a row in 1976. They had the pieces in place. There was no pesky free agency to worry about. They had the best defense in NFL history and an offense loaded with Hall of Fame talent. What could go wrong?
In a word: injuries. The ’76 Steelers were absolutely plagued by them. None more so than Terry Bradshaw, their star quarterback. He battled health issues all season long. As a result, the offense went into a bit of a tailspin after the first few games of the year, resulting in the team limping to a 1-4 record to start the season. Most were convinced the team was dead in the water.
Then the defense took over. Realizing they might have to do it themselves, the Steel Curtain delivered the most insane second half of a season in NFL history. From week six through the end of the regular season, they pitched five shutouts and allowed more than six points just once. Pittsburgh won the division, made the playoffs, and crushed Baltimore in the divisional round to reach the AFC championship before injuries again ruined their hopes in a loss to Oakland.