Home Blog Forget Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, here's Pittsburgh's athlete/celebrity romance history – TribLIVE

Forget Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, here's Pittsburgh's athlete/celebrity romance history – TribLIVE

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The sports and celebrity headlines have been filled with the news of a budding romance between pop superstar Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
But Pittsburgh is no stranger when it comes to its athletes romancing celebrities.
One Steelers player married an Olympic figure skater, while Pirates and Penguins players have dated Hollywood celebrities. Here’s a look at those romances, some ill-fated and others still going strong:
Steelers
Terry Bradshaw and JoJo Starbuck
Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw wound up marrying figure skater JoJo Starbuck, who competed in the 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympics.
After seeing her in the Ice Capades in Pittsburgh, Bradshaw tried to visit with her backstage but struck out. A year later, she left two tickets for him when the show returned to Pittsburgh.
“Two weeks later, he proposed,” she told The New York Times in 1978, “and a month later I accepted. One of the main reasons was our mutual Christian faith. We both use it today as our real Rock of Gibraltar, to keep our priorities right and our heads screwed on straight.”
The couple married in 1976, with Starbuck filing for divorce in 1980 with it finalized in 1983.
“It’s typical Terry to take the blame for the divorce,” a Pittsburgh writer told The Washington Post in 1980. “The guy is just so sincere and so open. If the Steelers lose, he’ll be saying it was his fault. When his marriage falls apart, he says it’s his fault, but the truth is that he and Jo Jo never had anything in common.
Ben Roethlisberger and Missy Peregrym
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger dated Canadian actress Missy Peregrym, known then for her role in the movie “Stick It” and several TV appearances.
Some internet reports have them dating from 2007 to February 2008, but Roethlisberger was spotted at the “Watchmen” movie premiere in March 2009 with Peregrym.
Roethlisberger wound up marrying Ashley Harlan on July 23, 2011.
Roethlisberger and Natalie Gulbis
Roethlisberger dated LPGA golfer Natalie Gulbis late in his rookie season with the team in 2004 and into 2005. They were spotted playing together in March 2005 in the Kraft Nabisco Championship Pro-Am in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and later in July at a celebrity pro-am ahead of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in Ohio.
They remained friendly after breaking up, even playing a round together in 2010 at Laurel Valley Golf Club while Gulbis was in town for the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club.
Mason Rudolph and Genie Bouchard
Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph had a relationship that lasted about a year and half with pro tennis player Genie Bouchard, dating from October 2020 to March 2022.
In a January 2022 Instagram post (since deleted), the 2014 Wimbledon finalist wrote she was “obsessed” with Rudolph.
He also had been linked briefly to “Bachelor” alum Hannah Ann Sluss.
Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges and Lainey Wilson
Former Steelers quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges became a cult hero in Pittsburgh when he started six games — including three wins — in 2019. But his biggest victory may have come after his time with the Steelers.
Hodges started dating country music singer Lainey Wilson, known for songs like “Heart Like a Truck” and “Watermelon Moonshine,” more than two years ago, but the relationship didn’t go public until 2023. She and her band even wore Hodges Steelers jerseys as an opening act for Luke Combs in April at Acrisure Stadium.
“But I’ll tell you, he is good as gold,” Wilson told People Magazine in July. “Supports me, would never come in between anything that I’m trying to do. He’s like, ‘Go get it, girl.’”
Penguins

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Presenter Hilary Duff and NHL player Mike Comrie pose in press room during the 2010 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre on Aug. 8, 2010, in Universal City, California.


Mike Comrie and Hilary Duff
Forward Mike Comrie’s time with the Pittsburgh Penguins was brief, lasting only 21 games before a hip injury ended his career. But his relationship with actress Hilary Duff, best known as Disney’s “Lizzie McGuire,” lasted much longer.
The two began dating in 2007, got engaged and married in 2010, had a child in 2012, separated in 2014 and divorced in 2016.
In 2011, Duff joked that she wished Comrie was traded closer to California.
its a shame that me making a joke in jest,people can twist to sound so negative! p. s. love the burgh too 🙂
— Hilary Duff (@HilaryDuff) February 21, 2011

Robbie Brown and Alyssa Milano
In a relationship that most certainly wouldn’t fly these days, Penguins forward Robbie Brown was dating actress Alyssa Milano of “Who’s the Boss?” fame in 1988. She was 15 at the time, and they celebrated her 16th birthday with a dinner on Mt. Washington.
“She didn’t come to Pittsburgh very often because she was so busy working in L.A. But she did come to games on occasion, and we always visited with her when we’d have road trips in California,” former Penguins forward Phil Bourque recalled in his book, “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Ice, Locker Room and Press Box.” “Things eventually didn’t work out for Robbie and Alyssa. Imagine that, an actress and a hockey player couldn’t work it out.”
Russ Anderson and Dorothy Benham
Defenseman Russ Anderson, who played 353 games for the Penguins from 1976-1981, met Dorothy Benham while the two were in college in Minnesota in 1975. Benham was named Miss America in 1977, and the pair married on May 26, 1978. They had four children before getting divorced.
“I didn’t get my first kiss until our third date, and that was just a peck,” Benham told People Magazine in 1980. “He was the shyest, least forward man I had ever met.”
Pirates

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Cole Tucker and Vanessa Hudgens attend the 2021 AFI Fest Opening Night Gala Premiere of Netflix’s “tick, tick…BOOM” at TCL Chinese Theatre on November 10, 2021 in Hollywood, California.


Cole Tucker and Vanessa Hudgens
Cole Tucker was the Pirates’ first-round pick in 2014, and he started dating “High School Musical” actress Vanessa Hudgens in 2020. The couple went “Instagram official” in 2021, and they got engaged at the end of 2022.
On Valentine’s Day in 2023, Hudgens posted on Instagram about their relationship: “Real magnetic love is out there. What a journey it was to get here but so worth it to get to my forever @cotuck �� Happy Valentine’s Day❤️”
Tucker’s Pirates career ended in 2022, when he was designated for assignment, later splitting time in the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies organizations.
Ralph Kiner and Elizabeth Taylor
Pirates slugger Ralph Kiner, who played for the team from 1946-53, earned a reputation as a ladies man with actresses, thanks to his connections with the team’s part owner, Bing Crosby.
Kiner only had one date with the then-17-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, escorting her to the premiere of “Twelve O’Clock High” on Dec. 21, 1949.
“I drove over to pick her up at her home in the hills. She was still getting ready,” he told the Associated Press in 1981. “I talked to her father, a nice guy, and her mother, a domineering woman. Then Liz entered the room. She was breathtaking.”
Kiner also was linked with actresses Janet Leigh, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and Jane Russell before marrying tennis pro Nancy Chaffee in 1951.
Mike Palm is a Tribune-Review digital producer. You can contact Mike at 412-380-5674 or mpalm@triblive.com.
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