Bradshaw called Tomlin more cheerleader than coach in comments to Fox Sports 1 last week, and Tomlin said the comments were disrespectful before dropping in a shot at Bradshaw's intelligence level.
"Terms like cheerleader guy, to me, maybe fall outside of bounds of critique or criticism," Tomlin said during Tuesday's news conference. "They probably fall more toward the area of disrespect and unprofessional. But what do I know? I grew up a Dallas fan. Particularly a (Thomas) 'Hollywood' Henderson fan."
Henderson ridiculed Bradshaw back in 1979 when the Cowboys and Steelers were at the top of the NFL. He said this of Bradshaw:
"He couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the C and the A."
The controversy erupted last week when Bradshaw sharply critiqued Tomlin, who has a 102-57 record and a Super Bowl title in 10 seasons with the Steelers.
"I don't think he's a great coach at all," Bradshaw said of Tomlin. "He's a nice coach. To me, I've said this, he's really a great cheerleader guy. I don't know what he does. I don't think he is a great coach at all. His name never even pops in my mind when we think about great coaches in the NFL."
Pittsburgh players, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, have backed Tomlin with supportive comments.
Tomlin doesn't like the situation but understands it is part of business in the NFL.
"I appreciate the support, but criticism and critique are very much a part of our business," Tomlin said. "It's an element of our business that as a competitor I embrace. The term 'great,' that's something I have a great deal of respect for. I certainly don't think that my resume to this point reads as great. But very few coaches' resumes read as that at this point.
"Guys like Bill (Belichick) in New England probably can say that, Pop (Gregg Popovich) down in San Antonio (of the NBA). I think the rest of us are just working stiffs to be quite honest with you."
Bradshaw quarterbacked the Steelers from 1970-83 and won four Super Bowl titles. He is considered one of the top players in Pittsburgh history.
"No offense to Terry," Roethlisberger said after Sunday's victory over Baltimore. "I think he is one of the greatest of all time. I consider him Steeler family. But this is the real family, the tight-knit family that we have in here in this locker room. And when people talk, it's dust in the wind, if you will.
"I laughed at it because, well, it was what it was. But we can't dwell on it. Some people may have taken it to heart and said, 'Hey we're going to play for him because of what was said.' I think I've been in this long enough and heard enough stuff that for me it wasn't as big of a deal."
Tomlin won his fifth AFC North title after the Steelers rallied for a 31-27 victory over the rival Baltimore Ravens on Christmas Day. The win sent Tomlin's team into the playoffs for the seventh time and moved the Steelers to 10-5 this season.
Bradshaw's comments might just fire up the Steelers for a playoff run.
"We weren't happy about it," guard David DeCastro told ESPN of Bradshaw's comments. "Hopefully it will fire us up the rest of the way.
"I pulled up ESPN around 10 p.m. (Friday) and was like, 'What the hell is this?' I don't get what the motivation is. Is this to get your name out there more or something? What are you doing?"
Bradshaw said he considered Tomlin's predecessor, Bill Cowher, to be a great coach. In his 15 years as Steelers head coach, Cowher was 149-90-1 (.623) from 1992-2006, with 10 playoff appearances, two AFC championships and one Super Bowl title. He had three seasons under .500.
Bradshaw's coach, Chuck Noll, had 193 career wins from 1969-1991.
As a comparison, Tomlin has never had a losing record. He is one of eight head coaches in NFL history to win at least 100 games in the first 10 years on the job.
"I didn't see it, but I heard about it," running back Le'Veon Bell said after the game of Bradshaw's comments. "So for me it wasn't a rallying cry. My mindset was to go out here and get the win regardless. I didn't care what people were saying, but for him, for Coach T, obviously we want to win for that man. I love him to death. To me, he's a great coach. He puts us in the right situations. He's real savvy. He thinks a lot like me, and obviously I'm excited about the win."
Left guard Ramon Foster added in defense of Tomlin: "He can coach. Look, nobody's ever talked bad about Mr. Bradshaw. Nobody's ever mentioned him in a bad light. I don't know where that comes from. But we'll see. I would love to hear his comments now."
Linebacker Vince Williams wrote on Twitter after the Steelers clinched the No. 3 spot in the AFC playoffs: "Not bad for a cheerleader."