Pittsburgh Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw led his team to four Super Bowl titles in his legendary career.
Bradshaw retired after a brief one-game comeback in 1983 against the New York Jets where he reinjured his surgically repaired elbow.
Despite his great success, Bradshaw retired without the fanfare that Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed in his final home game and the outpouring of love from the Pittsburgh fan base.
Bradshaw’s time in Pittsburgh was not exactly a bowl of cherries for the Hall-of-Fame QB. He was mercilessly booed and benched multiple times during his first five seasons in the NFL.
Bradshaw held a grudge against Pittsburgh for years and did not return even when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989.
The Steelers legendary QB finally agreed in 2002 to return, and he was cheered wildly. The death of Mike Webster has been suggested as the catalyst for Bradshaw’s change of heart.
During the HBO “Going Deep” documentary on Bradshaw’s football career and personal struggles, the former quarterback admitted that there was a hole when he looked back on his playing days.
“If there is one thing in my life I do wish, I wish I was loved and respected,” Bradshaw said. “I know I don’t deserve this; I just wish I had it. Like [Tom] Brady, Peyton [Manning], Roger Staubach. When I sit back in my life as a football player, I never had that kind of respect. I really do wish I did.”
The man who first equaled Bradshaw was the San Francisco 49ers legend, Joe Montana. He is still considered the most clutch quarterback in NFL history
Dallas Cowboys QB Roger Staubach was an American hero, who attended the Naval Academy, won a Heisman Trophy, but 2-2 in Super Bowls; both losses were to Bradshaw and the Steelers.
Bradshaw won a league MVP and two Super Bowl MVPs, and his record of four championships has only been equaled by Joe Montana and Tom Brady. Yet, he is not held in the same reverence, as the aforementioned QB’s.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Thomas Henderson famously called him dumb before a 35-31 loss in Super Bowl XIII. Bradshaw was the MVP of the game, but the perception infuriated Bradshaw and still does to this day.
The perception of Bradshaw’s intelligence is perplexing. He called his own plays during his career. He was the QB of the most dominant team of the 1970’s.
The perception may come from his southern drawl or his happy go lucky attitude, but it’s hardly true and definitely hurt and affected Bradshaw deeply.
Bradshaw should get the love and respect the he deserves over the next few seasons as the Steelers celebrate the golden anniversaries of Super Bowl championships.
Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw. Photo courtsey of Behind the Steel Curtain