Stories of Steel: Steeler in the, I mean with a Shotgun.
One of Bubba Brewster’s… errr… Bobby Blister’s… I mean Bubby Brister’s best lines during his years as a Steeler came in 1991 when Cowher called on him to go in for the ailing (that can mean whatever you want) Mark Malone. The backup replied “I don’t mop up for anybody”, which let’s be honest probably came out something more like “I ain’t gonna do no f*^king mopping up for no body.” Brister, aptly named “bubby” by his brood of older sisters, who I can only assume put him in dresses and mascara a number of times as all good sisters do, would also instill a feistiness in him that to this day has kept him a kid at heart. And by the way, his real name is Walter. The kid was doomed from day one.
Before we talk any football, you have to watch this clip of Brister giving his speech at the Merril Hoge roast. The two guys spent 6 years together on the field and it’s obvious they had a pretty close relationship. But more importantly it’s a prime example of the bumbling idiot Brister is, dropping F bombs and knocking stuff over. You know what they say, you can take the boy out of the country….
To Steeler fans the mid-late 80s were tough because we just weren’t winning. The early 90s were tougher because we didn’t win the big one. Smashed between two guys who brought us a lot of that agony, (I speak of none other than Malone and Dallas-O’Donnell) Brister did have some bright spots in his short career. His NFL debut came in 1986 in a losing effort against the Bengals. Brister passed for 191 yards and took the ball in for a score, showing he had some skills. But in his first season as a starter (1988) Brister completed less than half his passes and threw 11 TDs and 14 INTS. But again… it’s all about perspective, Malone was worse. Bubby holds the record for the longest pass ever completed in Three Rivers Stadium, an 89 yard touchdown bomb to Lipps in 1988 against the Eagles. And in 89 he set the then team record for consecutive completed passes at sixteen. (Since tied by Big Ben). Brian Blankenship, a former lineman, said “everything we did revolved around Bubby’s excitement and exuberance.” Bubby did have great escapability and he could toss the ball seventy yards easy. I remember some pretty little passes to Carter.
Monday Night Football seemed to be a haven for Bubby, he played some of his best games on the national stage. The first, his 1986 debut for the Steelers, then twice again in 1996 for the Eagles against Super Bowl Champion Dallas (he threw for 245 yds and 2 TDs) and again against the 49ers (he threw for 353 yds and 3 TDs).
Bubby even gained some towel waving fans after a gutsy performance in Denver, where he seemingly willed the Steelers to the edge of glory, in an almost upset win against the heavily favored Broncos in the playoffs in 1989… but every other year he pretty much sucked. Brister seemed born to be the backup, always slated second. Case in point with O’Donnell, in Philly with Cunningham, then again with Denver he was put behind Brian Griese after Elway retired. He was supposed to play leading man for the Saints in 1994, but was put aside for Jim Everett. Maybe he really just wasn’t ever that good. Or that good all the time. There was but one season where his picks didn’t outnumber his TDs. (that was 1990). He threw interceptions like they were beads at Mardi Gras. Anyone remember the hit song Mamas don’t let your bubbys grow up to be quarterbacks? In the 1991 season opener against the Chargers, Brister was knocked out and left the game, and I do remember quite a bit of cheering that day at Three Rivers. He would later tear up his knee and lose his job to the great, mediocre, Neil O’Donnell. Hold your applause. Brister would return off and on over the next two seasons to come in for the ailing O’Donnell, mounting fourth quarter comebacks against Seattle and Detroit and leading the Steelers to a must win over Cleveland to clinch home field for the playoffs in ‘92. He played well that day when we needed him, and managed to throw only to the guys in black.
Brister did win two Super Bowls, thanks to John Elway’s arm, but in all honestly played well at times for Denver, winning the five games he was called on to play in Elway’s absence in 1998. Mike Shanahan, the Denver coach at the time, says – seriously- Brister’s arm strength is more potent than even Elway’s. Heck, the kid was throwing a 92 mph fast ball in high school.
But let’s let the dust die down a bit and give the guy some credit. For all of his southern drawl, hyper activity and potty mouth, he’s a stand up guy. Brister grew up in Monroe, Lousiana. He later moved to Mandeville, (after retiring in 2001) just about 30 miles north of New Orleans. When Katrina hit in 2005, he and his family evacuated their home and headed for safety. But they didn’t stay away. Bubby was the first guy back. The first guy to start clearing trees. The first guy to offer aid to anyone who needed it. One of his neighbors said of him “He was the guy with a chainsaw cutting away trees, he was pulling stuff off of driveways, he was tireless.” He really did a lot to bring that community back from the brink. It was his positivity and leadership that the families rallied around and were then able to reestablish their lives.
But Brister surely has his country side, with a little frat boy thrown in. He’s not shy about his bachelor days, even when talking about seeing his now wife for the first time “she looked like the finest tilling you’ve ever seen”. I guess you gotta be from the south to get that one. He may not have the stats of Big Ben, but they may have a little bit in common after all…. Brister even commented on the current QB’s, um, issues saying “maybe he’s just a little too big for his britches, but, we were all young and made stupid mistakes.” He’s speaking from experience, and likely referring to his altercation outside a bar with an off duty police officer. According to Brister, who was playing for the Jets at the time, the guy tried to pick a fight. I guess there are always three sides to every story… right Ben? (Bubby picked up a hefty $280k fine for that little mess.)
Nowadays, Brister is spending his days hunting and fishing, he’s a rep for Mossy Oak. He leads groups out into the wilderness to shoot stuff, he’ll take you if you want. He’s also running annual QB camps for youth football players. And, he’s involved in his community, still. Doing good, honest work. That’s something that hasn’t changed over the course of his life. You can check him out at bubbybrister.com
Bubby had a long, if not tumultuous, career in the NFL that spanned fifteen years. If you are keeping track, that was with the Steelers, Broncos, Eagles, Jets, Vikings and Chiefs. He finished his career with 14445 yards passing, 1207 completions, 81 touchdowns and 78 picks. Bubby turns fifty this August.