AFC North: Chris Hanburger
February, 5, 2011
By James Walker | ESPN.com
The AFC North will not have a representative in the 2011 Hall of Fame class. The division's two finalists -- Jerome Bettis and Dermontti Dawson -- failed to make the cut Saturday.
Allen Kee/NFL/Getty ImagesDuring his 13-year career Jerome Bettis topped 1,000 yards a season eight times.
Bettis was one of the league's great running backs, spending most of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and rushing for 13,662 yards and 91 touchdowns. He did not make it beyond the cut of 15 players. Dawson was a stalwart center for Pittsburgh for 13 seasons, but failed to make it to the final five.
I knew it would be tough going for both players this year as Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk were first-ballot locks, leaving just three slots for 13 great players. But the time element makes the situation for Bettis and Dawson different.
I agree with the committee that Bettis is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But I think Bettis has a solid chance to get in eventually. He's fifth on the NFL's all-time leading rusher list, a six-time Pro Bowler and has a Super Bowl ring. But Bettis has to wait his turn like many outstanding players before him.
A seven-time Pro Bowler, Dawson has been on the ballot since 2005 and year after year he's left on the outside looking in. It appears his candidacy has improved this year. But several quality first-ballot candidates will continue coming down the pike and not leave many slots available for Dawson.
This year's class includes Sanders, Faulk, defensive end Richard Dent, tight end Shannon Sharpe and Ed Sabol of NFL Films. Linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter made it as senior nominees. Sharpe played two seasons with the Ravens but was primarily known as a Denver Bronco.