"Terry sent waves of confidence through the entire team," Steeler Coach Chuck Noll said. Indeed, Pittsburgh beat the Jets easily, 34-7, and that win, coupled with Cleveland's 34-27 loss to Houston on Sunday, gave the Steelers the AFC Central title. All of which meant Pittsburgh could rest Bradshaw until its first playoff game, on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.
There were times during the last eight months when Bradshaw didn't know what the next week—or even the next day—would bring. He'd strained his elbow severely in the '82 training camp and got through last season on weekly cortisone shots. Even before last season, a Shreveport orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Bill Bundrick, had diagnosed the ailment as "reverse tennis elbow"—microtears of the flexor pronator muscle, which is located over the inside of the elbow—and on March 3 of this year he removed the damaged tissue and reattached the muscle to the humerus near the elbow. Bradshaw was told not to throw until July. But by Pittsburgh's May minicamp Bradshaw was feeling like his old self. He began throwing and tore more tissue in his elbow, which ballooned to the size of a softball. Bundrick told Bradshaw not to even think of playing before September. "I felt like scolding him," the doctor says. "But he can't help it. He's Terry Bradshaw."
By September the swelling and pain hadn't subsided, so the Steelers sent Bradshaw to physical therapists in Pittsburgh. He subsequently made a trip to Shreveport to see Bundrick and while there tested a new gadget the doctor had just bought—the Acuscope, which simulates the effects of acupuncture by increasing the electrical activity of cells, thereby promoting healing. Bradshaw used it just once and was a changed man. He began lobbing balls 30 to 40 yards. By late October he was itching to play. He threw and he threw and he threw—up to three hours and 1,500 balls a day. Soon he had a strained triceps. "It was a totally different injury," Bundrick says. "One from sheer overuse."
Out of frustration, Bradshaw and Noll began exchanging words in the newspapers. Bradshaw charged that Noll didn't care about him; Noll suggested that perhaps Bradshaw was ready for his "life's work," that maybe he ought to retire.
Bradshaw fled to Shreveport and the Acuscope. After one treatment he had 60% relief from the pain and swelling of the strained triceps; the next day, he had 80% relief. Ten days later, on the Monday following Thanksgiving, Bradshaw went back to Pittsburgh, this time with the Acuscope following close behind. He promised that a miracle had been performed. Noll was skeptical. But after seeing Bradshaw work out, Noll realized he had his old quarterback back. "I believe in miracles," he says now.
In the meantime half the Steelers have started using the Acuscope, and Rooney is ready to shell out $6,000 for the team's very own machine. Yet despite its popularity in Pittsburgh, the Acuscope, which first came on the market three years ago, is used more on animals than humans. Says Bradshaw, "I can't wait to try it on my horses."