Bradshaw's finally coming 'home'
Terry Bradshaw has a request for the concessionaire at Heinz Field.
"Kill the fatted calf," he said. "The prodigal son is coming home."
For the first time since he retired following the 1983 season — a generation and 17 quarterbacks ago — the Steelers' Hall of Fame quarterback will make a recognized appearance at a Steelers home game Monday night when he serves as their honorary co-captain before the game against the Indianapolis Colts.
"I can't wait," he said. "I never was a captain when I was playing. How cool is that• This is like the most exciting thing that has happened to me since Super Bowl XIV."
Bradshaw's appearance coincides with his whirlwind book-signing tour that eventually will reach many of the major cities in the United States. Bradshaw's second book is entitled "Keep It Simple" and is a followup to his first literary venture, "It's Only A Game."
Bradshaw, 54, concedes that football, indeed, is only a game, "but a very hard game."
It never was easy for Bradshaw, the first overall pick in the 1970 draft, who had a difficult time establishing himself as the Steelers starting quarterback early in his career. Eventually, he set — and still holds — many of the major team passing records and became the first quarterback in NFL history to lead a team to four Super Bowl championships. Ten years later, Joe Montana joined Bradshaw in that select group.
Almost immediately after the end of his 14-year career, Bradshaw became a multi-media star, working as a television analyst and studio host for NFL games, appearing in movies and starring in commercials. He did not attend Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr.'s funeral in 1988 or the last game at Three Rivers Stadium in 2000, but he recently has begun to repair his frayed ties to the city and its fans.
He was in town last year for Fox Sports to interview Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart, who was in the midst of a Pro Bowl and team MVP season. Three weeks ago, he returned to give one of the eulogies — a touching, off-the-cuff presentation — at the funeral for Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster.
Like Stewart many years later, Bradshaw's relationship with the fans of Pittsburgh was rocky in the early years. Then, after his retirement, commitments to network employers on game days negated many opportunities for a return to Three Rivers.
"Things have been written and said about me not liking Pittsburgh," he said. "A lot of it was created by me, I don't mind telling you that. But I don't have a football family. I have a family, but I don't have a football family. I told (Steelers president) Dan Rooney that I miss this place. This is my home. This is my career.
"The fans need to know how much I love them, that the city is such a major part of who I am. I don't think they realize that."
When contacted by Bradshaw's representatives, Rooney and his son Art II eagerly endorsed the idea.
"He was one of the great quarterbacks of all-time, and it will be a special night to recognize him in front of all the Steelers fans," Rooney said.
Colts coach Tony Dungy, who spent two seasons as Bradshaw's teammate in 1977 and 1978, said he will be pleased to see him back in Pittsburgh.
"It's going to be fun for him coming back," Dungy said, "because I know he hasn't been there."
But Dungy said, jokingly, that he doesn't think he will speak to Bradshaw.
"Unless, he's rooting for the Colts, which I don't assume he will be, we might have a hard time talking to him," Dungy said.
Before the game, Bradshaw will visit the Steelers locker room and stand at midfield among the Steelers captains for the coin toss. His daughters, Rachel, 15, and Erin, 13, will be by his side. At halftime, the team will recognize Bradshaw for his 1989 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Midway through the third quarter, though, he plans to leave for his Westlake, Texas, home.
"I have to get my girls back home," he said.
Bradshaw still follows the NFL closely as one of the hosts of Fox Sports' NFL Sunday show. He said he agreed with Steelers coach Bill Cowher when he pulled Stewart from the game against the Cleveland Browns, but he thought Stewart should have been returned to the starting lineup the following week in New Orleans.
"I thought they should have started Kordell in New Orleans (Stewart's hometown) … just for his psyche," Bradshaw said. "They could have said, 'Kordell, you're coming home.' Maybe that would have revitalized a spark. And they could have brought Tommy (Maddox) in earlier, if they needed to."
Bradshaw acknowledges that Maddox has played well.
He also says that "Kordell has found himself in a spot that he never dreamed he'd be in. But no one ever said life is fair. It's tough on everybody when you don't perform as expected. If you don't produce, we don't care who you are, what color your skin is. Jack, get out of here."
Asked if he believes that Stewart can revive his career in Pittsburgh, Bradshaw said, "I hope so. I like him."
But he added that he doesn't know where Stewart's career will go from here.
"I don't think (the Steelers) have given up on Kordell," he said. "I'm not sold that they are convinced that Tommy is their guy for the next three or four years. Maybe he is. If he plays well, he is."
Bradshaw said, however, that if the Steelers are still unsettled at quarterback, they need to get the question answered quickly.
"The quarterback position is the one spot that is the most important and, yet, is the one spot you shouldn't have to worry about," he said. "When you have to start worrying about your quarterback, when he's the engine that drives and moves this thing, you have problems."