Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies have become a love feast for Pittsburgh Steelers fans who have seen members of their cherished Super Bowl teams enshrined for the last three years. But sadness and tension will be felt here today, when quarterback Terry Bradshaw takes his place beside defensive tackle Joe Greene and linebacker Jack Ham.
Bradshaw ended his stormy, 14-year career on a bitter note. And he has had virtually no contact with former teammates, Coach Chuck Noll or team owner Dan Rooney since a controversial elbow injury ended his career in 1983.
Add to that the critical remarks Bradshaw, now a CBS announcer, made on the air about Noll last season--calling him a “jerk” and suggesting the game had passed him by.
The thousands of Steelers fans who made the three-hour drive to these ceremonies may not know whether to embrace or boo their prodigal quarterback.
“I think Terry felt betrayed and rejected by the Steelers,” said former center Ray Mansfield.
Though Bradshaw and Noll--and in fact Bradshaw and the Steelers fans--often wrangled over his play and his public statements, the falling out became complete when surgery the team did not authorize failed to repair Bradshaw’s injury.
“He felt like he had really done something for them, and they had turned their backs on him,” said Mansfield. “He ended up walking away bitter.”
Bradshaw has language in his contract as an analyst for CBS that states he is not required to do Steelers games.
The wounds are so deep that Rooney’s telephone calls to Bradshaw to congratulate him on his selection to the Hall of Fame went unreturned.
And Bradshaw has acknowledged that Noll did not call him, either.
“He doesn’t care,” Bradshaw told USA Today. “He did not respond to interview requests from a Pittsburgh paper.
“That’s all right. I couldn’t handle it if he did call. It would be too uncomfortable.
“The thing is, if someone locked us in a room, I really think we could settle this.”
Bradshaw has hinted his Hall of Fame speech, and his upcoming book, “Looking Deep,” makes some effort at reconciliation.
But when it came time to select a presenter for the ceremonies, he chose broadcast partner Verne Lundquist instead of anyone from his playing career.
Bradshaw has said that had Steelers founder Art Rooney not died a year ago, he would have asked the elder Rooney to do the honors.
“When Mr. Rooney died, that was Terry’s last tie to the Steelers,” said Bradshaw’s wife, Charla. He did not attend The Chief’s funeral.
“When Terry is finished with anything, he puts it behind him,” said his wife. The two live in Roanoke, Tex., with daughters Rachel, 2, and Erin, five weeks.
Bradshaw, too, acknowledged he has no wish to relive the past.
“I wasn’t that close to any of my teammates. I didn’t find anyone to become a best friend. We don’t stay in touch. They’re all over the country, but I do not want to stay in touch.
“When we’re around, I love it,” said Bradshaw, who shares enshrinement honors with former teammate Mel Blount, one-time Green Bay Packers defensive back Willie Wood and Oakland Raiders lineman Art Shell.
“But once you’re through with something, bury it and move on to something else. You can’t live in the past,” he said.
Those words must be lost on Steelers fans, who are here today to do just that.