Steelers oddball victory: Defense picks Otto Graham 5 times for 2 touchdowns

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Jack Butler (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Jack Butler (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Steelers games against the Cleveland Browns have always been memorable on one level or another. Such as this game going back to the October 17th, 1954

Typically when the Steelers have two interceptions returned for a touchdown is the game not only memorable it’s generally a rout. What makes this game a bit odd is despite routing the Browns, Pittsburgh’s defense also gave up the most points ever with two interception returns for a touchdown. Of course, the Browns quarterback was the NFL legend, Otto Graham. The final score was Steelers 55-Browns 27.

Pittsburgh Quarterback Jim Finks faced Browns Quarterback Otto Graham at Forbes Field. The Browns took an early lead in the first quarter going up 14-7. Then the Steelers lowered the steel curtain, not that they had a fearsome defense in the ‘50s, but in this game, they did. Not only did Pittsburgh return two interceptions for touchdowns, but they victimized Otto Graham five times overall. Plus, Browns’ half-back Ray Renfro threw one additional interception.

Early in the 2nd quarter, future hall of fame defensive back Jack Butler intercepted a browns pass and returned it 41 yards for Pittsburgh touchdown giving them a 20-14 lead the Steelers would never relinquish for the remainder of the game. Then in the last score of the game, the nine-year NFL veteran Russ Craft, who played halfback and defensive back, intercepted another pass and subsequently returned it 81 yards for a touchdown giving the Steelers 55 points.

Not only did the Steelers defense rise to the occasion despite allowing the most points when returning two interceptions for a touchdown, but Pittsburgh quarterback Jim Finks also had an impressive performance as well. He went 13-17 for 257 yards with four touchdowns and one pick. Graham finished 22-29 for 298 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions.

The Steelers have only had one other game against the Browns in which they intercepted the ball six times. It happed exactly 29 years later, on October 16th, 1983

Even Odder

This game is the only game in Jim Otto’s career he threw five interceptions. However, he has only thrown four or more interceptions three times in his career. Of the three times this has occurred, twice it happened against the Steelers. The second time was in Cleveland on October 4th,  1952.

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While Pittsburgh didn’t have great teams in the ‘50s, they had great individual talent on some of those teams. In this game led by Jack Butler, they rose to the occasion for a memorable defensive and offensive performance.