compares his relationship with the city of Pittsburgh to a bumpy marriage with
a happy ending. "We've been separated, gotten back together, and now we're
in it for the long haul," says the 57-year-old Bradshaw. He played 14
seasons for the Steelers, leading the franchise to four Super Bowl
championships. But following an unhappy retirement in 1983, he and the city
parted ways for nearly two decades. The ice broke in 2002 when he gave the
eulogy at the funeral of Hall of Fame center Mike Webster. Shortly thereafter
he made his first appearance at a Steelers game in 19 years. "I can
understand why the people of Pittsburgh thought I had turned my back on
them," says Bradshaw, now a cohost and analyst on Fox NFL Sunday and a
costar in the upcoming film Failure to Launch. "Quite honestly, I was
pretty bitter when I left there. Mad as hell. I had to retire, I was fighting
with my coach, feeling disrespected. You know how ex-athletes are. But I
finally woke up one day and said, 'This is stupid. I have to make this right.'
And so I did." Here, the immortal number 12 reflects on his Steelers
ON WHY HE WAS AT
HIS BEST IN THE BIGGEST GAMES
I honestly don't know. But I'm glad that I had this quality. It wasn't
necessarily just me, because some of the plays I made in these big games were
balls that should not have been thrown. You can see Lynn [Swann] leaping in the
air, making spectacular catches. But I do know this: When I got in big games,
for whatever strange reason, I did feel a real calmness. I don't know where it
came from, but I'm glad it happened.
ON HIS MOST
UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT AS A PLAYER
I'll always remember our first playoff season in 1972, but I remember more
clearly the Vince Lombardi Trophy being presented by Pete Rozelle to Mr. [Art]
Rooney after Super Bowl IX. After all those years of
frustration--fortysomething years--we had finally become a world champion.
That's my one moment.
ON WHAT HIS
STEELERS TEAMS MEAN TODAY
I would like to think the team of the 1970s is the team that established the
identity of the Steelers. Pittsburgh has always been a blue-collar, hardworking
town. I would like to think that we are the blueprint, and that's what everyone
is trying to emulate. The franchise always had a good defense, and they had
Bobby Layne [from 1958 through '62], but I would like to think the team of the
1970s set the image of what is now the Steelers family. And the franchise has
carried on the tradition.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE STEELERS AND THE CITY
It's a football town because people can identify with the ups and downs and the
winning and losing of a football game. When you say Pittsburgh, you think of
the smokestacks and the stuff that used to be. I think it's natural for people
who feel like they are on the outs with the more sophisticated cities to have a
tad of a chip on their shoulder. I'm a small-town Southern boy who went to a
small school [a native of Shreveport, La., who attended Louisiana Tech]. I
didn't go to Notre Dame or USC. I didn't win the Heisman. I have a chip on my
shoulder, so I was perfect for that city. The family of Pittsburgh was able to
wrap their arms around us and say to the world, "Fine, maybe we don't have
this or that, but we kicked your butt and won these championships."
ON FOLLOWING THE
I'm always watching their games. We may have two or three big games going at
Fox, so I can't watch [ Pittsburgh] exclusively. But I'm in tune with the
Steelers all day long.
ON WHETHER HE
THOUGHT THIS WOULD BE THE STEELERS' YEAR
Absolutely not. They were 7-5. But they did it the right way. The teams that
are hot at the end of the year are the teams that will be there no matter what
the records are. They got their mojo going, they started to believe they could
beat anybody, and they did. Ben Roethlisberger played phenomenal--and
phenomenal on the road. They mixed up their play-calling. They got on top early
and confused people. They went to the Colts knowing damn good and well they'd
win. I didn't think they would, and I said on the air that Indy would win. But
after they beat Indy, I had no question they would beat Denver.