Steelers 1983 Season was Saved Due to the Critical Secret that Terry Bradshaw Kept from Chuck Noll

The fans were anxious to see the return of Bradshaw and the pedestrian Stoudt was struggling to win the crowd over. He was seen as the weak link of a team that the fan base believed could “win one for the thumb” and questions mounted about the return of Bradshaw when the team was winning. But things were about to get a whole lot worse.

After a horrendous outing by Stoudt, who completed just 13 of 30 passes, versus the Minnesota Vikings resulted in a 17-14 loss that halted the winning streak, things were about to heat up. It was a devastating loss in that Pittsburgh was favored to win, but were dismal in the outing. The game would have all but sealed the AFC Central Division for the Steelers, but instead, they lost pace with the Los Angeles Raiders for the AFC’s top seed. As expected, Noll was asked in the Monday press conference what he thought of Bradshaw’s chances of returning and his response was something that neither the fans nor Bradshaw, wanted to hear.

Chuck Noll per Michael MacCambridge per Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work:

“I don’t know if he can throw or not. Maybe he’s ready for his life’s work,” Noll said.

The inference to the end of Bradshaw’s career did little to boost the team’s performance. On Thanksgiving Day, the Steelers suffered a 45–3 blowout loss to the Detroit Lions, the worst of the Noll era. Stoudt completed 9 of 25 passes and was lifted for Malone. The following week the Steelers dropped a 23–10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a performance in which Stoudt completed 8 of 19 passes for just 88 yards, and the team gained only nine first downs.

With a three-game losing streak and the Cleveland Browns making a run at the division with a potential winner-take-all matchup in Cleveland Week 16, the Steeler faithful were getting nervous. The crowd was getting increasingly hostile and impatient with the struggling Stoudt, and it led to more questions about when Bradshaw might return, prompting a snarky response by Noll.

Chuck Noll per Michael MacCambridge per Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work:

“Look, he’s getting close, but so is Christmas,” Noll said.

With a Week 15 game versus the New York Jets in the final game at Shea Stadium and the team’s playoff chances hanging in the balance, Noll finally announced Bradshaw would play. But just as Bradshaw obfuscated the extent of the elbow in the offseason, he did the same by concealing his troublesome elbow was sore again by Friday. Bradshaw was in a tough spot. The team and the fans were counting on him, and he knew it, so he said nothing.

Terry Bradshaw per Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work:

“If I went to Chuck and told him I couldn’t play, it would make Chuck look bad and put me in a terribly embarrassing position and it would have made the Steelers look like fools,” Noll said.

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