Terry Bradshaw was saying all the right, noncommittal things about the Houston Oilers today when someone asked him if he could understand Dan Pastorini's roughing up of a sportswriter.
"I'm not going to speculate about that," the Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback said. "I couldn't do it."
An interviewer said he'd sleep better tonight knowing that and then asked Bradshaw if he would be surprised if the Oilers inserted seven defensive backs against him on obvious passing downs in Sunday's AFC championship game at snow-covered Three Rivers Stadium (WRC-TV-4, 1 p.m.)
"If they do they will be in a lot of trouble," the three-time Super Bowl winner predicted. As if to account for that forthright statement, Bradshaw said, "We're getting edgy."
It was pointed out that defensive back Vernon Perry of the Oilers intercepted four passes in Houston's 17-14 upset playoff victory over San Diego and Bradshaw observed, "He's only one man back there; he can't cover the whole field."
At the mention that the Oilers sound more confident than they were in last year's conference title game, which the Steelers won, 34-5, in rain, snow, and on the icy artificial turf, Bradshaw said, "They're talking. If I were a professor of psychology I'd wonder whether they were talking to convince themselves they're better this time, or whether they believe the things they are saying."
A Louisianan, Bradshaw was less than sympathetic about the thermal shock that greeted the Oilers, incubated in the hothouse atmosphere of the 72-degree Astrodome. "They can't get the game postponed," the quarterback said. "They got to play in it, so they may as well try to forget about it."
A visitor from another planet would be baffled at the logic of playing the game in the subfreezing temperatures rather than in the Astrodome, management paying some of the superstars so well and exposing them to the elements, and fans paying $16 for a ticket to sit outdoors.
The temperature was 23 degrees today, with a snowfall expected to reach about two inches. There is a 30 percent chance of snow for Sunday, with the temperature forecast to be in the high 20s.
The tarpaulin was removed for both teams to work out this afternoon and then replaced.
Professional football players, of course, are drafted from all weather zones, but most of the Oilers seem to have been drafted from the south, southeast and southwest colleges.
The weather here hardly would be prescribed as part of the therapy for the injuries to quarterback Pastorini, running back Earl Campbell and wide receiver Ken Burrough, all stricken with groin muscle pulls.
Incidentally, Pastorini is from Santa Clara University, Campbell from Texas and Burrough from Texas Southern.
Campbell said after practice today, "I'm perfectly healthy."
Pastorini said, "I'm 95 to 98 percent, and with a night's sleep 100 percent."
Burrough said, "I could use another day, but we have to play tomorrow (Sunday)."
Tight end Mike Barber said, "I took cold showers all week. The cold here isn't going to bother me."
To dramatize his mockery of the subfreezing weather he worked out today in a T-shirt and trunks.
The oddsmakers remained unimpressed and favored the Steelers by 10 points, because of their 12-4 regular-season record, the home-field advantage, the weather and the Oilers' injuries.
Pastorini said of last year's championship game loss, "A lot of people made weather an excuse for getting beat by a good football team.
"Our attitude is different this time. Last year we were satisfied just being in the title game. This year we believe we can win. It seems like it's our turn. We've come a long way since last year.
"The two best teams in the National Football League and playing each other tomorrow and the team that wins also will win the Super Bowl. The Steelers are a great team, but not infallible. I think we will have to score 21 points or better to win."
The oilers earned a wild-card berth in the AFC with an 11-5 record, while the Steelers were winning the Eastern Division title with a 12-4 mark.
For the third straight year, the Steelers and Oilers split their regular-season games. This season, the Steelers won in Pittsburgh, 38-7, in the second week of the season and lost in Houston in the next-to-last week, 20-17.
Pittsburgh's playoff victory over Miami, by 34-14, was its 15th straight victory at home, where it has won 23 of its last 24 games. The Steelers lost one playoff game at Three Rivers, to Miami in 1972 in the Dolphins' 17-0 season. Since then, the Steelers have won six consecutive playoff games at home.