Mark Madden: New Steelers assistant Tom Bradley has taken enough flak
The Steelers hired Tom Bradley to coach their defensive backs. Bradley was Penn State's defensive coordinator from 2000-11 and would be that school's head coach today if not for the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Bradley did stints at West Virginia (2014, defensive line coach/associate head coach) and UCLA (2015-17, defensive coordinator) between Penn State and the Steelers. He is renowned as a one-on-one teacher, able to get through to today's athlete, and seems emblematic of a trend by the Steelers to hire career coaches instead of ex-players as assistants. Bradley replaces former Steelers defensive back Carnell Lake.
Besides Bradley, the Steelers also recently hired Karl Dunbar to coach the defensive line. Dunbar worked at Alabama the last two seasons. He previously coached with four NFL teams.
Outside 'backers coach Joey Porter and inside 'backers coach Jerry Olsavsky have so far survived this new direction. Porter should be fired. He still postures like a player, behaves like a mascot and has overseen the abject lack of progress made by former first-round pick Bud Dupree.
Bradley's hire has drawn faint cries of nepotism: He is the brother of Steelers team orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Bradley.
It has drawn slightly louder cries of outrage from those who feel the Steelers shouldn't hire someone who was on staff with Sandusky at Penn State. “Surely he must have known!”
Full disclosure: Bradley previously did a weekly segment on my radio show, and I consider him a friend. So his hiring won't trigger me to reopen an investigation into the Sandusky era at Creepy Valley.
If you don't think that's how the sports media works, you're more naïve than I am hypocritical. Bradley's resume and reputation as an excellent coach make my stance all the easier.
Did Bradley hear whispers? I can't believe he didn't. But I don't know.
But Bradley isn't Mike McQueary, the assistant coach who witnessed Sandusky raping a boy.
Bradley isn't Joe Paterno, who left an electronic trail of his knowledge and was in charge at Penn State in a way that went far beyond football.
A terrible thing happened at Penn State. Bradley was merely in the vicinity. Nothing more.
Should Bradley's coaching career be terminated because he was at Penn State when the Sandusky scandal transpired? That notion seems insane. But some of my microphone-wielding brethren seem to feel Bradley should withdraw from both football and society and live out his life as a hermit.
I'm often no better. This is the business we've chosen.
Hiring Bradley won't be bad PR for the Steelers. The Steelers won't let it. The team won't address the Sandusky connection. Nor will Bradley.
What little talk there is will blow over, and a good coach can get about the business of maximizing young talents like Artie Burns and Sean Davis. Each has progressed but not enough. Cam Sutton was often injured during his rookie season but has great potential.
Bradley's experience as a defensive coordinator should prove invaluable to Steelers defensive boss Keith Butler, who would be wise to use Bradley as a sounding board.
Bystanders get hit by shrapnel all the time. Bradley has been hit by enough. Because of the Sandusky scandal, Bradley lost his life's ambition: The chance to succeed Paterno as Penn State's head coach (and for more than just four games).
The Steelers got a good coach and a good man. The next time Bradley guests on my show, it will be to talk about his DBs.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).