By Cable Neuhaus
January 22, 1979 12:00 PM

By all odds this should have been a season of sublime satisfaction for Terry Bradshaw. He quarterbacked the Pittsburgh Steelers into this Sunday’s Super Bowl against Dallas. He led his conference in passing and was voted most valuable player by his teammates. More and more often the once-maligned Bradshaw, 30, heard himself praised as the best quarterback in football.

But the pleasure of those triumphs has been tarnished, because for much of the last six months Bradshaw has lived apart from his wife, ice-skating star JoJo Starbuck, 27. That the separation was due to a conflict of professions, not personalities, was little consolation. “It got very lonely and depressing,” says Bradshaw. “When you love someone it’s hard to stay away from that person a great length of time.”

Starbuck was featured in John Curry’s hit show Ice Dancing in New York, 340 miles from Pittsburgh. Between his football and her skating, they saw each other only one or two days a week after she left for rehearsals in October. “I told her, ‘I’d rather you be with me during the season,’ ” Bradshaw says. “But she did what she wanted to. In the beginning she was rehearsing a lot and didn’t get home for about three weeks. Later, when I was hurt in a game, she came home for a day. They [the Ice Dancing management] pitched a fit. The show must go on. They don’t care about feelings.”

Bradshaw’s show went on too. He threw 28 touchdown passes, the most by any pro quarterback since 1970, as the Steelers won 14 of their 16 regular season games. “It’s a personal ego thing to have all those statistics,” he says, “but it would mean nothing if we didn’t get to the Super Bowl.”

A sensation at Louisiana Tech, Bradshaw joined Pittsburgh in 1970. The Steelers, perennial losers, went from 1-13 to 5-9, but Bradshaw was blamed because they didn’t win more and was tagged a dumb Southern blond. “I’ll never live it down,” he laments now. “I tried to scramble and make things happen and sometimes I made mistakes. Every time it would be in the papers.” The image persisted even after he led the Steelers to their first NFL championship in 42 years in 1975, and they repeated in 1976.

Bradshaw married Starbuck in June of that year. (His first marriage to a former Miss Teenage America ended in divorce in 1974.) It was a DiMaggio-Monroe union, but by all reports has endured. He calls her “an angel”; she buys his jeans for him. In Pittsburgh they live in a 17th-floor, one-bedroom penthouse overlooking Three Rivers Stadium. The apartment reflects the couple’s strong religious convictions; several shelves are filled with books like Prayer in Practice, Kingdom of the Cults and The Jesus Generation.

When JoJo was in New York last autumn, Terry phoned her every morning, and they read Scripture to each other. “Praying together would make our day, just like some people do yoga,” he explains.

Though she’s never understood football, Starbuck took time off to attend both Steeler playoff games. She’ll be at the Super Bowl too. (Ice Dancing has closed in New York, and she hasn’t decided whether to join its national tour.) Starbuck and Bradshaw will spend the off-season in Pittsburgh, where he’ll tend to business, including his job as spokesman for the company that supplies his toupees. He also owns a 440-acre ranch in Louisiana. Last spring Bradshaw played a bit part in Burt Reynolds’ Hooper. He got it after Reynolds inadvertently read a “dumb Bradshaw” joke on an NFL pre-game show, then apologized. But on the set Terry’s slow-learner reputation preceded him. He was given two lines and told to go home and learn them.

Off-season he’ll also negotiate for a second record album. A passable Country & Western singer, he made I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry for Mercury in 1976. It wasn’t an embarrassment, but the LP flopped commercially. No promotion, Terry complains.

He and JoJo also plan to work at being stay-at-homes—perhaps even start a family. “We definitely want children,” Bradshaw says. “But I’ve read about starlets who go on the road six months a year and never see their kids. That wouldn’t be right for us.”