Getting to the Super Bowl changes everything for an NFL franchise. Winning it is difficult, but we should remember it’s only one game. The biggest game of all of course, but just getting to a Super Bowl may be even more difficult. Over the course of the last 50 years, there are many teams in the NFL that have made the journey. Some have been more successful than others.
Pittsburgh Steelers & Dallas Cowboys – Eight Appearances
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been to a Super Bowl eight times in their history. In those eight appearances the Steelers have managed to win the Super Bowl six times, giving them an impressive 6-2 record in championship games. Those early wins were made possible by the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, and head coach Chuck Noll. That Steelers combination managed to pick up four Super Bowl wins in six seasons together. The last pair of Super Bowl appearances by the Steelers came in 2011, when they lost to the Green Bay Packers, and in 2009, when Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals. By the way, though the Steelers and Cowboys are tied in Super Bowl appearances, Pittsburgh has the most wins in a Super Bowl with six.
The Dallas Cowboys also have eight appearances in the Super Bowl. The first appearance came in Super Bowl V, in which Dallas fell to the Baltimore Colts 16-13. The next year however, the Cowboys came roaring back and grabbed their first Super Bowl win by beating the Miami Dolphins 24-3. It would take four more years for Dallas to return to the Super Bowl but it wasn’t until 1978 when they would gain another victory. The Cowboys returned in 1979 in a rare back to back appearance but fell to Pittsburgh 35-31. Down the line the Dallas Cowboys would win three more Super Bowls behind the quarterbacking of Troy Aikman and the running of Emmitt Smith, bringing home the Lombardi Trophy in 1993, 1994, and 1996.
New England Patriots – Seven Appearances
The New England Patriots occupy second place with seven appearances in the Super Bowl, but it took some time before the Patriots actually won. New England had the misfortune to run up against a tough Chicago Bears team in their first trip to a Super Bowl and were beaten soundly, falling 46-10 in New Orleans in 1986. The second trip also resulted in a loss in New Orleans in 1997. But by the time 2002 rolled around the New England Patriots were firmly in the hands of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, who proceeded to give New England fans Super Bowl victories in three of the next four seasons. The Patriots have lost their last two appearances in the Super Bowl, falling to the New York Giants in 2008 and in 2012.
Denver Broncos & San Francisco 49ers – Six Appearances
While the San Francisco 49ers have been to six Super Bowls, they currently are tied for second place for most Super Bowl wins with five. What’s remarkable about the 49ers’ track record in the Super Bowl is that up until the 2013 game, San Francisco had been to five Super Bowls and won all five of them. Those victories came under the same head coach, Bill Walsh, and a pair of All Pro quarterbacks in Joe Montana and Steve Young. Montana was especially effective, leading the 49ers to victory in the Super Bowl in 1982, 1985, 1989, and 1990. Young got his win in 1995.
The Denver Broncos haven’t been quite as lucky as the 49ers. Denver has also been to the Super Bowl six times, winning only their last two appearances. Denver first appeared in a Super Bowl after the 1977 regular season but fell to the Dallas Cowboys. Consecutive trips in 1987 and 1988 also resulted in losses as did another in 1990. It wasn’t until John Elway finally got some help that the Denver Broncos notched a Super Bowl win in 1998 and put the icing on the cake with a repeat victory in 1999.
The Best of the Rest
The field starts to get crowded after the above elite teams. There are a number of teams with five appearances in the Super Bowl, including the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and Green Bay Packers. The Packers and Giants have been very successful in their trips, holding records of 4-1 each. The Raiders and Redskins are 3-2 in their Super Bowl appearances while Miami trails the pack at 2-3.
Most Super Bowl Appearances With No Wins
The Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills have each gone to the Super Bowl four times. That’s an admirable record compared to many franchises, but neither the Bills nor the Vikings have ever brought home a Lombardi Trophy. For the Bills, who set an NFL record by appearing in the Super Bowl four straight seasons, it was especially painful.