- Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Senior NFL Writer
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Jerome Bettis doesn’t have to give compliments this summer. He’s being inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday. He’s supposed to receive them.
But Bettis perked up when asked recently about the development of Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who’s finally being mentioned among today’s quarterback greats after a 4,952-yard season and 103.3 passer rating.
Bettis thinks Roethlisberger has been underappreciated, and here’s why:
“We knew he was special. You could see it,” said Bettis, who played with Roethlisberger from 2004-05 before retiring. “He was limited in terms of his opportunities. It wasn’t even a question mark. When you have players like that, even if numbers don’t say it, you see it. Some of the passes he threw, I was like, 'Whoa.' I’ve been around some quarterbacks, but he’s different -- like, even having the thought to throw to that particular guy. I’m glad now he’s getting the chance to showcase that.”
When Bettis played with Roethlisberger, the quarterback averaged 281.5 passing attempts per season. The last two years, he’s averaging double that, at 596 attempts per season. That total is partly a byproduct of Todd Haley’s system and the league trending toward pass-first offenses. But i’s also a sign of Roethlisberger’s growth.
The Steelers' supporting cast around Roethlisberger “has the potential to be even better than when we were all there,” Bettis said. Antonio Brown has been the NFL's most productive receiver the last few years, and Le'Veon Bell was second in rushing and receptions by a running back.
Roethlisberger has said recently that Bettis was “a big brother” to him, especially in teaching him about how to relate to teammates.
Bettis will share in the celebration of Roethlisberger’s success.
“I take pride in his development as a player,” Bettis said. “To become one of the best in the NFL, very prideful.”