Is it possible that Terry Bradshaw's repeated attacks on Ben Roethlisberger are rooted in jealousy and the likelihood that Roethlisberger will be remembered one day as the greatest quarterback in Steelers history?
I say yes.
The only other plausible explanation is that Bradshaw simply doesn't like Roethlisberger. That might go back to before Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident in June, 2006. "Ride it when you retire. Those things are dangerous," Bradshaw had warned him a year earlier. Roethlisberger basically told Bradshaw to kiss off and mind his own business.
That seems like a pretty silly reason to hold a grudge, not to mention that five years is a long time to hold it.
Like you and me, Bradshaw is entitled to his opinions about Roethlisberger and his deplorable behavior at a Milledgeville, Ga., college bar in March. He is paid big money by Fox Sports to share his thoughts with a national television audience. But Bradshaw, who won four Super Bowls as the Steelers' quarterback in the 1970s and made the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989, won't let the Roethlisberger thing go. His act is getting old, to the point it makes you -- OK, me -- wonder what his motive is.
Earlier this month, Bradshaw told the Shreveport Times that he thought Roethlisberger's conditional six-game suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was more than fair after Roethisberger was accused of rape. "Going to bars -- treating women like that, oh my God. I pray they don't cut it to four games. I hope they leave it at six. There is no excuse for that. The egos get out of hand."
Bradshaw was even stronger on the Fox NFL pregame show a week ago before the Steelers played the Atlanta Falcons. He pointed out how the Steelers traded Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes in April after he violated the league's substance-abuse plan but kept Roethlisberger, whose suspension was reduced to four games by Goodell. "If I had owned the Steelers -- hear me loud and clear -- he would not be a Steeler," Bradshaw said. "I would have gotten rid of him. What he did, in my eyes, is absolutely unacceptable."
There is nothing wrong with Bradshaw's opinion. It is shared by many around town and around the NFL, even though Roethlisberger wasn't charged with any crime.
But Bradshaw would have more credibility if he weren't such a phony. This is a man who preached about his love for Steelers owner Art Rooney Sr., yet didn't bother to attend his funeral. He's a man who picked a fight that lasted for years with Steelers coach Chuck Noll, who never did anything to him but try to make him a better quarterback. He's also a man who boycotted Pittsburgh for 19 years after he retired, apparently because of some slight he felt. "His period of exile," teammate Mel Blount once called it. When Bradshaw finally came back for a Steelers game at Heinz Field in 2002 -- after blaming many of his personal problems during and after his playing days on depression -- he was treated like a hero. Naturally. Pittsburgh will never forget those four Super Bowls and the players who won them.
Bradshaw has been married and divorced three times. He makes jokes about it all the time. That doesn't necessarily make him a bad person, but the way he described himself in his first autobiography, "Man Of Steel," made him sound very much like ...
Well, you decide.
"I lived only for Terry Bradshaw, not for God. I tried to be one of the boys and went to every honky-tonk I could find and chased women and behaved in a way that was totally alien to anything I had ever known before ... My whole life was out of control."
If I'm not mistaken, I believe it was Roethlisberger who said his Big Ben persona made him forget his Christian upbringing and the right way to treat people. "I've made a lot of mistakes and I'm sorry for them," he said. "This has brought me back to being Ben Roethlisberger."
Is it just me or do the two Steelers quarterbacks' stories sound at least a little bit similar?
Bradshaw and Roethlisberger always will be linked and have a special place in Pittsburgh sports lore because they led the Steelers to multiple Super Bowls. Nearly 27 years after Bradshaw retired, he still is regarded as the franchise's greatest quarterback. But Roethlisberger is closing fast. If I had to guess, I would say that Roethlisberger will be remembered as the better quarterback by the time his career is finished. I'm not so sure he isn't already.
Maybe that's why Bradshaw was so eager for the Steelers to dump Roethlisberger. The man has some nerve talking about someone else's ego getting out of hand.
Ron Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.