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Terry Bradshaw Was Thrown Into One of the Worst Situations in NFL History



Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw

Before Chuck Noll arrived in 1969, the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the worst organizations in the NFL. Noll inherited a 2-11-1 team and a franchise that never won a playoff game in its 36 years of existence.

There were some lean years before Noll turned the Steelers into perennial Super Bowl champions. The Steelers went 1-13 in Noll’s first season, but the team marginally improved the following season, finishing 5-9. Still not great, but the Steelers were heading in the right direction.

One of the key components in the Super Steelers era of the 1970s was quarterback Terry Bradshaw, the first overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft. Bradshaw led the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles, was named Super Bowl MVP twice, and was selected League MVP in 1978.

Terry Bradshaw had a Hall of Fame career in the Steel City, but there were some rocky roads in the beginning. In 1970, Bradshaw completed just 38.1% of his passes and had a brutal 6-24 touchdown-interception ratio. Bradshaw took a safety in each of the first three games. That’s how bad it was. Many thought Bradshaw was a bust.

Bradshaw had no talent around him, however. There was no Lynn Swann and John Stallworth at wide receiver, Franco Harris wasn’t at running back, and the offensive line had just a few stellar pieces.

Dallas Robinson of Pro Football Network ranked Bradshaw’s supporting cast as the fifth-worst for a rookie quarterback in NFL history.

“The 1969 Steelers had managed just one victory, enabling them to land Louisiana Tech QB Terry Bradshaw with the No. 1 pick in the following year’s draft,” Robinson wrote. “Head coach Chuck Noll continued to reshape the roster in 1970, trading leading receiver Roy Jefferson to the Baltimore Colts after back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns.

“Bradshaw was forced to split time with 1969 second-round QB Terry Hanratty and started just eight games. Running back Preston Pearson led the Steelers in attempts but averaged just 2.9 yards per carry. Rookie wideout Ron Shanklin was productive, but other Pittsburgh weapons like Dave Smith and Dennis Hughes never panned out.

“Of course, Bradshaw eventually figured things out, winning four Super Bowls and an MVP award before being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

Bradshaw was benched in 1974 by Noll but eventually got his starting job back and led the Steelers to their first Super Bowl title. Bradshaw revealed in his “Going Deep” HBO documentary that Noll made him tough after the benching. He wasn’t used to being coached hard.

“I wasn’t his kind of quarterback, and he wasn’t my kind of coach,” Bradshaw said. “Taking me out of the game, putting me back in a game would devastate me. Grab me, yell at me, devastated. Made me stand up in a chair while he chewed my ass out in front of the team. Destroyed me.”

“He wanted players that were committed, that would work hard, that hated losing. He didn’t want to fall in love. He didn’t want to have you over for dinner … He didn’t want to get like this. And once I realized that, you know, then you just go ‘F*** it.’”