When you’re in Pittsburgh,” observed the graying quarterback with a football-size paunch, “the Steelers are your team.” Fortunately for Steeler fans, Country-and-Western star Kenny Rogers doesn’t figure to be in uniform again soon, and certainly never on Sunday. Yet there he was for one brief shining moment, lofting wobbly passes in Three Rivers Stadium. The occasion was a slapstick scrimmage with some genuine Steelers, taped for the singer’s third CBS special, Kenny Rogers’ America. It is tentatively scheduled to air in November.
Rogers, who tips the scales at a robust 200-plus, was every bit a match—pound for pound, that is—for stalwarts like Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and Rocky Bleier, though hardly in the same league as Mean Joe Greene. Out on the field for warm-up exercises, Rogers fretted briefly over his girth. “God forbid if they ask me to bend from the waist and touch the ground,” he said. “I can’t get there.” “Maybe we should show Kenny the important exercises,” cracked Bradshaw, “like how to take oxygen.” Once play got started, though, Rogers remembered his days as a junior high quarterback, unleashing a touchdown lob to the sure-handed Swann. “He’s got Kenny Stabler’s looks and Billy Kilmer’s paunch,” noted Bleier. “If you can pick a guitar, you can throw a pass. It’s all in the fingers.”
In the end, Rogers proved he could carry a football better than the Steelers could carry his tunes. “If that doesn’t scare those other teams, nothing will,” he commented wryly after the players demolished Lucille and The Gambler. But when it came to intimidation, the Steelers fell back on more traditional violence. “Let’s push him around a little,” said Bradshaw. With that, Rogers vanished under nearly a half ton of prime Steeler beef. Even after that the rumpled singer talked a bullish game. “If Terry gets hurt I could take over,” Rogers said. “If I could gain a little weight I’d be okay.”