Pittsburgh Steelers fans should be well aware that few players are ever able to go out on their own terms. Whether it’s injury, money, decline in performance, or just plain being on a bad team, a true storybook swan song is rare. Even Jerome Bettis’ can be questioned. Sure, he retired in his hometown after winning the Super Bowl. But his biggest moment of his final season was a fumble that nearly cost them the chance to go to that game, and he served as a backup that year.
Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls and had a Hall of Fame career with the Steelers, but the way things ended—because of injury, with no fanfare, no press conferences—wasn’t how the script is supposed to go. His time in Pittsburgh wasn’t always the greatest, either, and while that wasn’t ever a secret, he talked about it recently on The Fan.
“I never had a problem with Pittsburgh. Everybody else thought I had a problem. I never had a problem”, he said. “I just wasn’t in love with Pittsburgh. I am a southern boy. I was always going to leave. And I had problems with Chuck Noll. But not that I couldn’t work with him”.
While he never has any shortage of praise for Noll and how great of a coach he was, his coaching style was not always what Bradshaw needed, especially early on in his career. Those who didn’t live through those days—like myself—may not be aware that Bradhsaw was benched in favor of Joe Gilliam at the beginning of that season (they went 4-1-1 with Gilliam, even if his numbers were ugly).
The Pittsburgh media wasn’t always kind to him, either and portrayed him as something of a simpleton in part because of his southern accent and personality. He played along with it, he said, but only because there wasn’t much of an alternative.
“I didn’t like my image in Pittsburgh – being dumb. You know, it pissed me off. I had to live with it, but I damn sure wasn’t happy about it”, he said. “And I had to play up to it and make fun of it and go, ‘hee-haw.’ But I was a serious football player. Very serious. And so I didn’t like that. And the people that started that were in Pittsburgh. I know exactly who he is”.
So much of the background, and then the fact that his career ended rather unceremoniously, without even a press conference, gave life to the idea that Bradshaw didn’t like Pittsburgh, but he says that was never the case.
“I was upset that what I loved to do, I could not do anymore. And that’s the reason I left Pittsburgh the way I did”, he said. “I didn’t have a press conference. First of all, who cares? Just tell them you’re retiring and move on”.
“I have no problems with Pittsburgh”, Bradshaw continued. “I love going back to the city. It feels good when I’m there”.