The relationship between the recently deceased Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw, who were coach and player for 14 years, has been strained and complex.
But they apparently had made up. Which makes the fact that Bradshaw skipped Noll's funeral Saturday night an even more thorny issue. But Steelers fans don't seem too thrilled about it.
For years, Bradshaw disapproved of the way Noll handled him. The quarterback felt that Noll did not do enough back-patting and that his tough-love treatment hurt their relationship. Following an elbow injury in 1983 that forced Bradshaw's retirement, the two men barely spoke for 20 years.
Then came an impasse: Bradshaw essentially admitted he was wrong about the whole thing. Here's a great read on the situation (written by future Hall of Famer Ed Bouchette) when Bradshaw and Noll supposedly kissed and made up in 2003.
From the story:
"He's a good man; we all grow up," Bradshaw said. "The picture becomes clear when you retire. Chuck's plan for me, the way he coached me and treated me, it was tough love. I didn't understand it, but I understand it now and I appreciate it.
"We probably can all say things now we wouldn't dare say before: I love him and care for him."
But did things disintegrate since? Bradshaw was in Pittsburgh to tape his one-man show, “America’s Favorite Dumb Blonde,” on Saturday, one day after Noll was found dead, at the nearby Meadows Racetrack and Casino, a short drive from Pittsburgh.
Bradshaw reportedly paid tribute to his former coach during the show. But he did not attend the funeral, nor spoke to Noll's widow, Marianne. Even notoriously private teammate Jack Lambert spoke privately with her. Several current and former Steelers — too many to list — attended the funeral of Noll, who died at the age of 82.
This has led to many people on Pittsburgh sports talk radio to call out Bradshaw for his apparent slight. On the "Starkey and Mueller" show on 93.7 The Fan, former longtime Steelers PR man Joe Gordon wasted no chance to rip into Bradshaw.
“He’s the most insincere person I’ve ever known,” Gordon said.
People grieve in different ways. Perhaps Bradshaw paid some sort of respect for his former coach in a way we have yet to hear about. Perhaps there had been a falling out between the two. We don't know all the details of this complicated relationship.
But we do know that many people in Pittsburgh feel Bradshaw should have found a way to show up for the funeral.
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