When all was said and done, the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly got their money’s worth after selecting Terry Bradshaw first overall in the 1970 NFL Draft. The Louisiana Tech product won four Super Bowl rings in the Steel City and, although his numbers might seem weak when compared to modern quarterbacks, retired as one of the most prolific and successful passers ever to take the field.
Terry Bradshaw doesn’t believe he should have been the 1970 NFL Draft’s first overall pick
After sitting behind future Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson at the start of his college career, Bradshaw took the reins in 1968 and quickly cemented himself as one of the country’s top quarterbacks, totaling an NCAA-high 2,890 passing yards and winning nine of his 11 starts. Although Bradshaw only threw for 2,314 yards as a senior in 1969, he was also lifted midway through several games because the Bulldogs had amassed such a large lead; the school then known as Louisiana Polytechnic Institute had five victories of 18 or more points.
All of this is to say that, when the 1970 NFL Draft rolled around, Bradshaw was understandably considered a legitimate prospect. Although Louisiana Polytechnic played in the College Division (bigger schools such as Alabama and Ohio State played in the University Division, and the entity now known as Division I-A wasn’t created until 1978), Bradshaw had the arm and the size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) to thrive if given an opportunity.
The Steelers were more than willing to give Bradshaw a chance, and the then-long-suffering franchise selected him first overall. Yet, as the 73-year-old admitted in the Going Deep documentary, he still doesn’t believe he deserved such an honor.
“Looking back on it now, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool.’ But really and truthfully, I shouldn’t have been. I went to this small school, and [I was] so immature, so much to learn. … Why would anybody pick me in the first round? I don’t know why [Steelers head coach] Chuck Noll drafted me.”Terry Bradshaw
Bradshaw split time with Terry Hanratty as a rookie and threw 46 interceptions across 19 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Steelers fans and media members alike criticized the young quarterback for his decision-making and intelligence. Little did they know that the Louisiana-born quarterback would eventually leave his turnovers behind en route to becoming one of the most celebrated players in NFL history.
Nonetheless, it’s strange to think Bradshaw, of all people, would still question why the Steelers selected him atop the 1970 draft. Although he admittedly entered the league with much to learn, he left with four championships, an MVP Award, and more touchdowns (212) than interceptions (210) despite the atrocious start.
As of 2022, the retired gunslinger is one of only two players from that class in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; longtime Steelers teammate Mel Blount, a third-round pick that year, joined him in Canton in 1989. Even Bradshaw’s biggest critics can’t argue the Steelers picked the wrong player No. 1 overall.
Bradshaw should give himself more credit, especially at this stage in his life. He overcame the doubt and the criticism to become an NFL legend, and we don’t throw that term around lightly. Many players are “stars,” and some even classify as “elite.”
But, a legend? Bradshaw owns such a distinction for a reason. The same still applies to why he’ll forever appear on lists ranking the best No. 1 overall picks.