Saturday, November 11, 2006

By Robert Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As an NFL analyst, Terry Bradshaw can only speculate how it must feel to have been in a head-rattling motorcycle accident, require an emergency appendectomy and get knocked out of game with a concussion -- all within a span of four-and-a-half months.

As a former player, he knows that a quarterback doesn't fumble kicks, miss tackles, fail in coverage or get flagged for excessive celebrations or other stupid penalties in an un-Super season.

But as the only other starting quarterback not named Ben Roethlisberger to win the Lombardi Trophy with the Steelers, he also knows first-hand that the quarterback of a football team in a football town attracts more scrutiny than anything else when its record conjures up images of chumps rather than champs.

"I think the world of him. I admire his talent. And you can't put it all on his shoulders. It's everybody. It's everything -- the entire team, the coaching staff," Bradshaw said of the Steelers' 2-6 record. "But he is finding out the other side of being a quarterback -- people asking questions, people pointing fingers."

Bradshaw will be outside Heinz Field for tomorrow's game between the Saints and the Steelers, along with the Fox NFL Sunday road show cast of Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That group can boast of 10 Super Bowl rings, three Hall of Fame busts and nine Emmy awards.

It comes as no surprise to Bradshaw that the focus of the media, fans and talk-show callers is whether Roethlisberger, who has steadfastly insisted that he is fine physically, came back too soon from his maladies.

"This poor child has been through hell in a hand basket. He's fortunate to be alive," Bradshaw said in a telephone interview before heading to Pittsburgh.

"Ben is the only person who can say if he's healthy. As far as I'm concerned, it's important to have a quarterback who wants to play, to be on the field, even if he's hurt. It tells your offensive linemen and everybody else on the football team that you're a tough [dude] and that you're tough enough to play through it."

Holding him back could even be counter-productive.

"It's like a racehorse," Bradshaw said. "The minute you put the bit in his mouth and pull back on reins and get him thinking or scared, that's worse."