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Hall of Fame QB Montana weighs in on Deflategate, Big Ben, Western Pa.

| Friday, June 5, 2015, 9:51 p.m.
Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana smiles while watching players warm up at Levi's Stadium before a San Francisco 49ers game Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014.

Joe Montana is a four-time Super Bowl champion, a three-time Super Bowl MVP, a two-time NFL MVP and could be the best quarterback who ever played the game.

Still, if somebody would've suggested to Montana anytime during his Hall of Fame career that a deflated football would have helped him throw better —especially in poor conditions — he would have given it serious thought.

“I wish I'd known (it could make a difference) because I couldn't throw a wet ball to save my life,” Montana told Trib Total Media. “Heck, I would've thought about (deflating the ball), sure.”

Montana is in Pittsburgh for Saturday's Gridiron Gold event at the Wyndham Grand, where the six Western Pennsylvania-born Hall of Fame quarterbacks — Montana (Monongahela), Jim Kelly (East Brady), Dan Marino (Oakland), Joe Namath (Beaver Falls), George Blanda (Youngwood) and Johnny Unitas (Mt. Washington) — will be celebrated for their football accomplishments.

Living members Kelly, Marino, Montana and Namath will participate in an armchair conversation that will be chronicled by NFL Films. Steelers president Art Rooney II will serve as honorary chairman.

“It's going to be fun,” Montana said. “There is going to be a lot of stories told about how great we used to be or thought we were. Every year the stories get bigger and better.”

Montana was candid about fellow four-time winning Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady and the allegation that he instructed Patriots employees to deflate footballs before the AFC championship game against the Colts in January.

“Everybody is trying to do something different,” Montana said. “Our offensive linemen used to spray silicone on their shirts until they got caught. Once you get caught, you get caught. Period. It doesn't take anything away from Tom's game. But how long has he been doing it? I don't know.”

Montana, who called Brady a great quarterback who has had a great career, thinks the Deflategate saga is “funny.”

“It is one of those things that is a rule, right?” Montana said. “It might be a dumb rule, but it doesn't matter. He didn't deflate them himself, but you can pick up the ball and can tell if it is underinflated, overinflated or what you like. Everybody is afraid to say it, but if the guy did it, so what. Just pay up and move on. It's no big deal.”

Montana has always been a big deal in Western Pennsylvania. He grew up 25 miles south of Pittsburgh, where the Ringgold High School football stadium as well as two bridges are named after him.

Montana went to Notre Dame after being named a Parade All-American following his senior year at Ringgold. He helped Notre Dame win the 1977 national championship before being picked in the third round of the 1979 NFL Draft by the 49ers.

Montana has a theory of why so many Western Pennsylvania quarterbacks were successful.

“I just think a lot of it was the pressure of getting out,” Montana said. “Back then we had the coal mines and the steel mills along the rivers, and life was a little different back then. You saw sports as a way to get out of that lifestyle. I know I would've never been able to go to Notre Dame — my mom and dad would've never been able to afford it.”

Despite not living in the area for more than 40 years and playing the majority of his career on the West Coast, Montana still considers himself a Steelers fan.

“Everybody asks me if I am a 49ers fan or a Chiefs fan,” Montana said. “I watch both of them and like both of them, but I grew up a Steelers fan. Once you are a Steelers fan, it is hard to get that out of your blood. I am also a big (Ben) Roethlisberger fan. I really like Ben. He will be in that Hall of Fame someday.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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