In their usual pursuits, Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw and country singer Mel Tillis are anything but washed up, but now they have taken the acting plunge—literally into a swimming pool—as crazed car racers in Burt Reynolds’ forthcoming vehicle, Cannonball Run. NBC liked the pairing so much when rushes were shown that it cranked up a just-completed spinoff TV pilot, The Stockers, which could deep-six Bradshaw’s football career. “It’s extremely improbable that Terry could play football if the show becomes a series,” says John McMahon, president of (Johnny) Carson Productions, which made the pilot. “And there’s a 90 percent chance NBC will pick it up.”
Bradshaw, 32, who played a bit role in Reynolds’ 1978 Hooper, is keeping mum on his plans until the network decides, probably next month. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is preparing for the worst. “The fans feel Terry is betraying the team,” observes Steeler spokesman Joe Gordon. “Their attitude is, ‘We’ll tell him when he can leave.’ ” But the front office is understanding. “He sees this as a move with long-term potential,” continues Gordon. “Terry’s been an outstanding performer and we wish him the best of luck.” The Steelers could legally block Bradshaw from honoring an NBC contract, instead of his reported $330,000-a-year football pact. But the coaches don’t want a half-committed quarterback. Some fans already blame Bradshaw’s yo-yoing marriage to ice skater JoJo Starbuck—a divorce is under way—for impairing his concentration last year, when the four-time Super Bowl champs fumbled to a 9-7 season.
Co-star Tillis, 48, predicts Bradshaw will score on TV. “The producer and director think Terry and I have a wonderful chemistry,” says Tillis, who plays stock car driver Bradshaw’s stuttering Sancho Panza. “Terry’s a natural.” Bradshaw’s biggest booster, however, is Steeler quarterback-in-waiting Cliff Stoudt, 25, who suited up for 56 games before calling his first pro play last season. “I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I’ll take the job any way I can,” says Stoudt. “I hope Terry wins an Emmy!”