With Free Agency in full swing, we at Steeler Addicts wanted to take the opportunity look back at former Steelers and special stories or moments. This is the first in what we hope is a recurring series.
I remember it like it was yesterday. You don’t realize it at the time, but somewhere in your head you know it even though your heart keeps denying it. The player you have loved and worshiped like an idol appears to be finished and will never take the field again. For me personally, that guy was Terry Bradshaw.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had such a long and proud history, especially over the last 40 years and in that time they have had many great players. We in the Steelers Nation typically have too many favorites to be able to name just one but when we are pressed we usually find a name or two and Bradshaw has always been that guy for me.
His final game came in the second-to-last game of the 1983 season. The Steelers were playing in New York against the Jets in old Shea Stadium and needed the win to get into the playoffs. Bradshaw had undergone surgery on his elbow in March of that year and this was actually his first action of the season. Terry knew the ball didn’t come out of his hands the way it once did and it was evident to everyone else too but he needed the confirmation as so many greats do.
Bradshaw would end up going five of eight for 77 yards and two touchdown passes before removing himself from the game in the 2nd quarter. While he knew it and we knew it, he did not officially retire until 1984.
I grew up with Terry Bradshaw or more exactly, I grew up ‘watching’ Terry Bradshaw. The story as it’s been told to me millions of times was that as a two or three-year old, I would immediately drop whatever I was doing when the Steelers were on television and I was particularly drawn in by the ‘guy wearing number 12.’ Keep in mind in those days we had three channels and you actually got up and changed the channel manually. Because the Steelers were one of the better teams in the league they were on quite often.
So that’s how I got hooked on Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers. When your favorite player is a guy who was far from perfect and even farther from well-liked by all Steelers’ fans, it can be tough. Bradshaw had one of the great careers in pro sports but also one of the most up-and-down as well. Poor play, benchings and squabbles with Head Coach Chuck Noll didn’t exactly endear Bradshaw to the Steel City. His down-home, folksy Southern attitude didn’t necessarily help with things either.
The rest is history as they say. He would go on to win four Super Bowl Titles in his time in Pittsburgh including two Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honors and one NFL MVP honor for the 1978 season. Bradshaw has had his share of personal demons too which have included failed marriages and trouble with anxiety, a dicey acting career and a stint as a country singer.
A lot of people ask me to this day why a guy like that would be my favorite and my answer is pretty simple. He represents not just being a great player but he also is representative of people in general. He has issues many of us struggle with and he is the first to own up to those. Goofy and dumb-witted as he is or portrays, he accepts who he is and I appreciate that about him.
With the recent release of Hines Ward, I couldn’t help but to think back to Terry’s final game. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see him throw another pass and he didn’t. Yes it would have been great to see Ward or Bradshaw walk off the Heinz Field grass or Three Rivers turf to an ovation but that’s not to be. They can’t all go out like John Elway.
This is why it’s so important for you as fans to savor the moments you have watching your favorites because their time is limited and careers can end on the very next play. I completely understand the feelings people had when Ward was released. Feels like being cheated out of a great moment where our hero rides off into the sunset.
Bradshaw didn’t have any sunset or ovation as he left the game, but that doesn’t eliminate the solid career he had. Or the fact that he’s a favorite to millions like myself.