As an injured Terry Bradshaw was being helped off the field at Three Rivers Stadium, the home crowd of rabid Pittsburgh Steelers rooters booed him. No doubt that was the nadir in a career that witnessed more lows than are normally associated with an acknowledged superstar.
His problem was that superstardom was expected, indeed demanded, by Steelers fans long before it was achieved by the immensely talented young quarterback.
Selected by Pittsburgh as the first player chosen in the 1970 draft after a stellar career at Louisiana Tech, he was proclaimed the "franchise quarterback" who would lead the team to its first championship after nearly four decades of frustration. He never lacked the tools.
Bradshaw (born 1948) had a rifle arm, size, intelligence, and desire. But in the beginning of his career, he sometimes had too much faith in his arm and forced his passes, resulting in interceptions.
And although he was bright enough, Bradshaw came out of Louisiana Tech with little knowledge of how to read defenses or run a pro offense. Worse, his friendly manner and sly wit were often misconstrued as a lack of "smarts."
When a Dallas linebacker joked that Terry "couldn’t spell 'cat' if you spotted him a 'c' and a 't'" fans laughed. Bradshaw was deeply hurt. He struggled through some mediocre seasons before finally coming into his own in 1974.
Once Bradshaw matured as a signal-caller, there was no stopping him. He led the Steelers to Super Bowl victories in January of 1975 and '76 as the masterful director of a run-oriented offense.
By the time Pittsburgh won two more titles in 1979 and '80, the offense revolved around his passing. He led the NFL in passing in '78. In Super Bowls XIII and XIV, he was named MVP. Perhaps because he had been through so much, he was always at his best in big games. In post-season play, Bradshaw passed for 3,833 yards and 30 touchdowns.
In his 14 NFL seasons, Bradshaw threw for 27,989 yards and 212 touchdowns. Appropriately, the final pass of his career was for a TD.