Jerome Bettis' best shot at making the Hall of Fame so far comes next year.
In his first two years of eligibility, he had been blocked by other running backs -- Marshall Faulk in 2011 and Curtis Martin this past weekend. Bettis will have the best résumé of any running back among next year's candidates.
The former Steelers running back ranks sixth on the NFL's all-time rushing list, which seems to weigh heavily for voters. The top four (Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Martin) are all in the Hall of Fame, and LaDainian Tomlinson (who is fifth) is still playing.
So, unlike the logjam that exists at wide receiver, Bettis has the benefit of not competing against another running back. The only notable back added to the ballot next year is Priest Holmes, who put together three great years but finished 39th on the all-time rushing list.
This isn't to say that Bettis is a lock to make the Class of 2013. The ballot will add some big names next year: Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden and Michael Strahan. If all three of them are elected, that would leave two spots. Another could be taken by one of the wide receivers (Andre Reed, Cris Carter and Tim Brown).
Under that scenario, Bettis would be fighting for the last spot. His competition would be Bill Parcells, Will Shields, Charles Haley and Warren Sapp.
Bettis was one of the 15 modern-era finalists for the Hall of Fame this year, but he failed to make the cutdown to 10. The Steelers did get two players, center Dermontti Dawson and defensive back Jack Butler, elected to the Hall of Fame on Saturday. That brings the number of Steelers in the Hall of Fame to 22.