Number One Pick
The 1970 version of the Steelers that Bradshaw joined were a hapless team. Their number one pick in the draft was made possible by their dismal record, finishing last in the previous season with only one win to fourteen losses. Bradshaw came with high expectations attached to him, with the Steelers expecting their new phenom to help turn around the franchise. Despite his talent, the big league pressure was too much for the young rookie. His first three seasons with the Steelers were unremarkable. Their record improved but not enough to make them contenders, and questions were beginning to be raised about Bradshaw's potential to contribute to the team.
Part of the problem may have been psychological. Among the many pressures that Bradshaw had to live with was absurd claim that he was "dumb." This rumor started with trash talking from opponents like Cowboy linebacker "Hollywood Henderson" who said Bradshaw "couldn't spell 'cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 't.'
In actuality, Bradshaw was later diagnosed with having Attention Deficit Disorder. Schoolwork, especially reading, was always an enormous challenge for him. But nonetheless, the media rumors circulating around him were especially hurtful because it belied the obvious brilliance of his generalship on the playing field.
Bradshaw told a New York Times reporter: "I was a home boy raised on my mother's arm, at Louisiana Tech the same thing. If you talk slow, you're stupid. If you're clean cut, you're square. It's ridiculous…. I must have been a showcase to look at—the comic-strip kid, the country bumpkin, the savior of the team. It was too much for a 21-years-old kid, too much for me." Bradshaw fought a seemingly futile battle to win the respect of his teammates, his fans, and the press. "If we have a bad game, it's because I'm dumb. If we have a good game, it's because everybody else played well and I got caught up in the action."