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Starkey: Bradshaw's legacy underappreciated

| Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, 10:57 p.m.

Maybe it's because he decided to become a professional buffoon after his playing days. Maybe it's because many in these parts regard him as a phony.

Maybe it's because his career numbers — at least when applied to the E-ZPass modern game — look so pedestrian. Maybe it's because there were so many other great players on the Steelers teams of the 1970s.

Whatever the reason, it seems Terry Bradshaw barely makes it into the conversation of best big-game quarterback of the Super Bowl era. It seems the mainstream conversation now begins and ends with Tom Brady and Joe Montana.

Bradshaw belongs in that conversation.

Not as the greatest quarterback of all-time, mind you, but certainly as the greatest big-game quarterback.

Those six silver trophies behind glass on the South Side might be four or fewer if not for Bradshaw's go-for-broke guts and precision.

His final seven Super Bowl touchdown passes went for an average of 44.6 yards. Brady, for all his greatness, needs about 32 completions to get 40 yards.

Give me one game to save the world, with any Super Bowl-era quarterback in his prime, and I'll gladly take Bradshaw.

Remember, Bradshaw had to call his own plays. He didn't have the benefit of an offensive mastermind of a coach (say, Bill Walsh) or an expert quarterbacks coach (the position didn't exist in a refined form back then, although Chuck Noll broke new ground by hiring Babe Parilli). He dealt with defensive backs legally mauling his receivers until 1978 and pass-rushers legally trying to maim him.

People forget, too, that Bradshaw was a bull of a runner (2,257 yards, 5.1 yards per attempt and 32 touchdowns).

Most importantly, though, he was the greatest big-game, deep-ball passer I have ever seen.

Two examples:

• Bradshaw steps up at his 19 and fires a gorgeous lob into John Stallworth's hands at the Los Angeles Rams 32 with a title on the line in Super Bowl XIV, resulting in a 73-yard touchdown.

• Bradshaw unleashing from his 30 — just as he absorbs a concussion-causing hit — and places a perfect bomb onto Lynn Swann's fingertips at the Dallas 6 in Super Bowl X. Couldn't have been more accurate if he'd walked up and placed the ball in Swann's hands.

Who else does that?

Do the Steelers win without that throw?

If it's numbers you crave, try these: four and six. As in, four Super Bowl titles in six years.

No other quarterback can claim that.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at jraystarkey@gmail.com.

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