Roundtable: Bradshaw at Celebrity Roast Part II

In part two of the transcript involving Terry Bradshaw and other former greats of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the players discuss today's team and how the game has changed.

Reporter: Speaking of which, they've been looking for the next Bradshaw here for quite a few years. Is this the year they draft one?

Terry Bradshaw: Oh, here it is. This is music to my ears by the way.

R: Should they draft one?

TB: I would think so. What's their draft order?

R: Eleventh.

TB: Eleventh? Yeah, this is the year to get one.

R: Who do you like?

TB: Who do I like? Rivers I really like. He's got a funky delivery, but he's good, really good. If you've got the right offense that guy at Virginia's good, too, but you could probably get him in the second round, third round even. The big three, everybody's talking about Eli. I've seen him play some. I'd have to sit in a room and talk to him, go to their games, and I haven't done any of that.

R: You talked about how expensive Manning is now. Would taking a quarterback in the first round be worth it?

TB: If he is an Elway or Marino or Kelly or Peyton Manning, Steve McNair, the kid down in Jacksonville is going to be a really good one. If he's really that good -- the kid down in Houston, Carr -- yeah. Now, if you've got a lot of question marks about him, if he hasn't performed well in big games, I hesitate taking him that high. I mean, Manning could never beat Florida when he was at Tennessee. You've got to watch that stuff. That stuff's embedded in them. It's their nature, you know?

R: Could each of you guys weigh in with your thoughts on the Steelers last year and what direction you think they need to go in?

Andy Russell: I just had the sense that they played below their talent. I know they had injuries in their offensive line. They had some problems in that regard, and their cornerbacks were struggling. I just felt, though, that they for some reason didn't have the year they could've had. They've got a lot of talented athletes. I think they could come storming back. You know, we've watched over the last four or five years and almost every year there's a team no one expected to win, and they win, I mean other than New England. They're pretty good and they've come back twice. But everybody was disappointed, including those guys obviously. I really don't have answers. As a spectator I'm rooting for them. Every mistake I see I've made myself, so I really can't be that critical. But I think they've got the talent.

R: Do you guys see the Steelers making a recovery this year?

AR: Yeah, I think so.

TB: Now don't sit here and go neutral on me. Tell me what you were telling me yesterday.

Mel Blount: I never talked about the Steelers. I've got too many other problems.

TB: I think they can rebound. From what I saw, and it's pretty obvious, they didn't run. They didn't control the line of scrimmage like they have in the past. They didn't run the football like Steeler teams normally do. They got into a passing mode and Tommy's not going to be the kind of guy that can carry you. He'll have some good games, but he's like most really good quarterbacks. He needs some of that pressure taken off of him. If you can run the football, you open up a whole new avenue for an offense. If you can't run it, then you've got some serious problems, especially if you're struggling with your receiving game, if your tight ends aren't involved. Zereoue was a back that came in, was good on third-and-short out of the backfield, then they started him the early part of the season. To me, they need to do what Steeler teams have always done. This team has always played great defense. For decades they've played great defense, and for decades they featured the running game and last year they struggled. It hurt their offense. It hurt them a lot, especially when you get down inside that 20-yard line and there's no threat of the run. It's a lost cause.

R: You know Maddox don't you?

TB: Yeah. I remember Tommy came to me on a practice range at a golf course in Dallas and was asking me to help him get a tryout with the Atlanta Falcons. Dan Reeves had just signed on to be the coach, and he was still trying to get in to the NFL. Obviously, I told him I couldn't help. I don't know Dan Reeves that well. By golly, he went out and made it.

R: Can he win?

TB: Well, if they can do the other things. He cannot carry this football team. If you think he can, you're making a mistake. They've got to be better at running the football and then he'll be effective.

R: Will the addition of Duce Staley turn the tide?

TB: It should. Duce is a hard runner, smart, great receiver out of the backfield. When you have a guy like Duce, and he can run and they can create lanes for him, and then you have the threat of play-action off of him with him as a threat out of the backfield, these defenses will tell you. When you've got to worry about a running back that cannot only run, but play-action off of it, it holds them up for a second, especially him. It just enables a guy like him, who's always been great out of the backfield, to get out and work his magic. Now, he's been around a couple of teams. There's a reason for that. I marvel at how a guy can't be any good here, but yet somebody else will pay him millions of dollars because he's going to be the savior there.

R: That's free agency. It's not like your day is it?

TB: We were stuck. That's why Mel sued the Steelers. Tell them about your lawsuit.

MB: You know more about it than I do. I'd just like to answer the question about what kind of team the Steelers will have this year. In this day and time, you could be on the bottom one year and the next year you could be in the Super Bowl. That's what free agency does. The Steelers got just as great a chance as anybody else because the fact that there is free agency. But I agree with Terry on a lot of things. They're going to have to be able to run the ball because if you can't run the ball they can shut down the passing game and I think we saw that with the Steelers this year.

R: Mel, they're looking at a bunch of 5-foot-10 corners again. It seems players have gotten bigger at every position but corner since you left. Why is that?

MB: I really don't know. It could be a lot of reasons. It could be that a lot of the great athletes are going to other sports. It could be they've gone into basketball and baseball. And then when you do get the great athlete, they might not want to play that position. It's a tough position. You don't get a lot of press unless you get beat. It could be a number of reasons, but when you look at the kind of receivers that are coming into the league now, you need bigger cornerbacks. You've got a guy like Fitzgerald, a guy like Williams, these guys are big guys. You can't have a 5-9 guy cover these guys, especially in the red zone.

TB: The problem was Mel set a standard. The entire NFL is so cyclical. Have you ever looked at a depth chart? A scouting report? They will call a cornerback that's 5-foot-10 big. Big. 5-10's big. Mel was 6-4. Now the receivers are 6-4, 6-5, the defensive backs are 5-9 to 5-11.

AR: Typically, smaller people are faster. If you look at the 100-meter dash, there are very few 6-4 guys. Mostly 5-9, 5-10, so it's a speed issue because you're not allowed to jam anymore. Mel could get up there and take a guy out and keep his hands on him until the ball was in the air. Well, that's totally out of the game now. Now it's just a sprint. And I think it's the most difficult position in football. You're running backwards; you're covering a guy going forward. He knows where he's going; you don't. And you can't touch him. And if he runs into you, you have to back away form him. I mean, it's ridiculous. The rules today are ridiculous.

R: Did the rules hurt you that much, Mel?

MB: They changed the rules in 1978. That's when we played under the new rules. You couldn't jam past five years, but you still had those five yards. We won two Super Bowls jamming within the five yards. I think it is about speed, but I think it's the techniques that are being taught today. I watch these games today and I watch how guys play and they might as well be 10, 12 yards back because they do not challenge the receiver from the line of scrimmage. If you can get your hands on that receiver and challenge him, then you throw off the timing of the quarterback and make him go somewhere else, so everything gets disrupted. It's about teaching these guys how to move their feet and how to get to the receiver and where to get them. If you're jamming a guy on the side, all you're doing is pushing him into his pattern. But if you're in his chest, you've got more control over him. It's a lot of things.

R: But did you think the rules affected you that much?

MB: I think it affected everybody, but we had the ability to adjust to it. My point is they're playing under those same rules now. I think one thing that's happing is they're throwing the ball so much more because of television.

TB: Well, the rules changes were for television. When the NFL went back, because to get more money, for the owners to get more money from television, they've got to prove to them that they can justify it in ratings. If they can't, the league doesn't get as much money and so we've seen these tremendous amounts of throws. What happened was the competition committee looked at the old AFL. There was no defense. It was like the Arena League, throwing that sucker down the field, I mean scoring a lot of points, and the fans were staying tuned. They were having fun. So what happened, in the early 70s, if you threw for 200 yards as a quarterback, you, my friend, were on the cover of Sports Illustrated. That's how hard it was against really good bump-and-run -- Oakland, the Steelers. Cleveland was pretty good at it. Houston was good at it. But it was designed strictly for television and the ratings. Let's get ‘em off, let's let these little bitty, receivers run down through there and let's get that ball in the air, score more points and let's get ratings up. So it was all done for television. Most of your rules today are done for television. The rule they made off of me getting hurt in Cleveland, with my neck, was, ‘Oh, my God we can't lose our star quarterbacks.' It wasn't, ‘He may never walk again.' It was, ‘It hurt the league! It's bad for ratings!' Honest to God, everything is driven by TV. It's billions of dollars now. I kind of chuckle at this thing called partnerships -- the NFL and the owners. There's not much of a partnership.

R: So is your position more important than ever today and should they go in that direction with the first pick and get a corner?

MB: When you look at the great teams, they've got great cover people. I think Ty Law proved that with New England and I think every team in the league is looking for that shutdown corner. They're hard to find. This year, I understand it's a good year for defensive backs. You're talking about big cover people. The boy down in Miami, Taylor? He's a safety.

TB: Well, most of your big cover people today are safeties. Mel Blount coming out today would move to safety.

AR: I think one of the mistakes they make today is they don't ever use the linebackers to go out over the wide ends, or the flankers. They're always inside and they're always dropping into a zone. They never cover anybody and they never jam anybody. Hammer and I, to help (Mel) out, wouldn't allow a receiver inside. Even five yards, if you force him outside every time, where he doesn't want to go, he's not going to like that. They just blitz the linebackers and they get picked up by a 350-pound tackle. I think the game has changed because of the rules and I don't think they've adjusted. Well, New England's adjusted.

TB: We were a 4-3 team and the 3-4 teams that came about in the 70s, the outside linebackers, one or the other was rushing to create the four-man rush and so they were going to bigger players. What did you play at?

AR: 220.

TB: What did Hammer play at?

AR: 220.

TB: What did Lambert play at?

AR: 218.

Part I  - Part III ( Coming Saturday )

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