Terry Bradshaw, suffering from a stomach virus, passed up practice today and expressed concern over the effect of cold weather on his throwing hand. But he is expected to start at quarterback for the Steelers Sunday when Pittsburgh plays the Houston Oilers for the American Football Conference title and a ticket to the Super Bowl (1 p.m., WRC-TV-4).
Bradshaw attended a team meeting today before the Steeler workout at Three Rivers Stadium and then went home as a precautionary measure.
"It's nothing," he said of the virus. "I'll just go home, get a good night's sleep, and try not to make the game any bigger than it is."
Bradshaw expressed more concern over the weather. The forecast is for snow mixed with rain Sunday, with a high temperature between 30 and 35 degrees.
Bradshaw practiced Friday on a snowy field with an open-fingered baseball batting glove. "The top of your hand can get numb when the weather is so cold," he said. "The footballs tend to get hard. I hope the glove works."
The Oilers did not appear to be uncomfortable as they practiced in Three Rivers today. They played their last five regular season games in covered stadia, and their last playoff game was staged in 80-degree warmth in Miami. Chilly weather in Foxboro did not bother the Oilers last week as they eliminated the New England Patriots from the playoffs.
The Oilers appeared to be ready for a tough game, no matter what the weather. They brought with them six doctors -- two orthopedists, a chiropractor, a plastic surgeon, an oral surgeon and an internist.
The last time these two teams met, 13 players left the field with injuries as Pittsburgh thumped Houston, 13-3. One of the 13 casualties was Houston quarterback Dan Pastorini, who sustained broken ribs he now protects with his much-publicized flak jacket.
"The jacket just makes it possible for me to play with the broken ribs," said Pastorini. "But the big difference this year is this man here," he said, pointing to running back Earl Campbell.
"I think Bum (Oiler Coach Bum Phillips) summed it up early this year when he said Earl Campbell has given us a sword to fight with. It's a new dimension for us, something we haven't had before."
Campbell rushed for 1,450 yards during the regular season, 4.8 yards a carry. His counterpart for the Steelers, Franco Harris, gained 1,082 yards, with a 3.5 average.
This contest for the AFC title and the right to play in the Super Bowl Jan. 21 is the third meeting between Houston and Pittsburgh this season. The Oilers beat the Steelers, 24-17, ending a seven-game winning streak in their other encounter.
The oddsmakers say that Pittsburgh is a 6 1/2-point favorite to win the rubber game.
Pittsburgh has won five of six post-season games here and is 49-8 at home since first making the playoffs in 1972.
The Pittsburgh defense yielded the fewest points in the NFL during the regular season (195) and led the AFC in overall defense during the regular season.
That defense will be tested by Campbell, who has rushed for 202 yards in two playoff games, and Pastorini, who is on a passing tear with a 73 percent completion rate in the playoffs.
"I'm just going to go out and play my game," said Campbell. "I'm not going to change my style of running. Pittsburgh is a good football team. They play hard."
In the Houston victory over Pittsburgh, Campbell scored three touchdowns and rushed for 89 yards. In the loss, he suffered broken ribs.
"Both teams are very physical," he said, "but there are no cheap shots. There's not a lot of talking. Both clubs just go out and play football and that's the way I like it."
Phillips had an eye toward the skies as he prepared for the title game. "I hope both clubs have the opportunity to do what they can do to win the game," he said. "I hope the weather doesn't become a factor and that the team that plays best wins. I hope the weather doesn't take the game away from the players."