AFC North: Jerome Bettis

Bettis, Clark support Michael Sam

February, 9, 2014
Feb 9
10:15
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PITTSBURGH -- Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis and free safety Ryan Clark each said the time is right for an openly gay player in the NFL after Missouri defensive end Michael Sams' announcement Sunday that he is gay.

"For him to make it public that he is gay, the key word is he knows who he is and he's comfortable with who he is," Bettis said on ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Sunday night. "I think that sends the message that it is OK and I think that's what everyone needs to take from that. It is OK that he is gay and wants to play football in the NFL."

Bettis estimated that 90 to 95 percent of NFL players will welcome Sam.

"I think this is the perfect opportunity for the NFL to now make this a point to communicate to every NFL team now you have to understand, now you have to bring these players to this moment," Bettis said.

Sam told ESPN and the New York Times on Sunday that he will attempt to become the first openly gay player to play in the NFL after a decorated career in which he earned All-American honors as a senior and was the SEC's co-Defensive Player of the Year.

"If he's willing to put his hand in the pile and be a part of the solution to winning a championship and winning football games, then guys will accept him," Clark said on "SportsCenter" in a phone in interview.

Sam's acknowledgement comes less than two weeks before the start of the NFL scouting combine where he will easily be the biggest story.

Clark said one thing teams will have to gauge while evaluating Sam is how he will be received in the locker room.

"The one thing we know about NFL locker room and NFL teams is it's the ultimate team sport and you want that camaraderie, you want that chemistry," said Clark, a two-time Steelers captain. "I think before he steps into a locker room people will talk to leaders in the locker room, leaders on their team to see how do they plan to accept him as a teammate."

Rookies are not always well received by veteran players. In the case of Sam, that could lead to questions of whether some players are aloof toward him because he is a rookie or because he is gay.

"This is the thing people have to understand about NFL locker rooms: It's a lot of ornery veterans," Clark said. "There's a lot of veterans that don't like talking to rookies. There's a lot of veterans that don't really mingle with guys coming in playing their positions or guys they feel like haven't earned their spots. So we've had situations where there are veterans that don't talk to the young guys or that don't necessarily accept them until they've proven themselves in certain ways.

"I think what we have to be very careful about is making sure that if a guy doesn't come out and say he's in full support just knowing he's not in opposition. Just understanding that for a lot of guys it's going to take some time to get used to that has never been through this situation. For us, it's about being patient with the whole process and allowing the guy to play football."

Bettis said he expects that to happen no matter which team Sam makes history with as the first openly gay player in the NFL.

"You're always going to have one or two guys that feel strongly in a different capacity but that's going to be in any situation you deal with," Bettis said. "You understand that and hope those players allow him to be in that locker room and give him the respect he deserves being in the locker room."

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PITTSBURGH -- Dumbfounded and even discouraged are two words that describe how I felt after learning former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis had been denied entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fourth consecutive year.

What I am missing here?

More importantly, what is he missing?

Bettis has the numbers, he has a ring, and he has the strongest of endorsements of those who should matter the most: the coaches and teammates who were around him on a regular basis and know the impact “The Bus” had on the field and in the Steelers’ locker room.

Consider what former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward told Steelers.com earlier this week: "To be that size and have quick feet was just amazing. Sometimes you found yourself as a teammate watching like a fan to see him get through a hole, side step somebody, run over somebody and then get up and do his patent ‘The Bus’ dance. That is what made him such a special running back. You don’t see many guys be able to maneuver the holes and run somebody over.”

Eh, what would Ward know?

He only played, fought and bled with Bettis for eight seasons and actually cried for the man after the Steelers fell short of the Super Bowl in 2004.

Bettis fell short of the Hall of Fame again though he did make the cut of modern-day finalists, along with former Steelers outside linebacker Kevin Greene, from 15 to 10.

That isn’t -- and shouldn’t be -- any consolation to the player who is sixth on the NFL’s career rushing list (13,662 yards) and is on a very short list of those who can be considered the best big back of all-time.

If Bettis is paying the price for the perception -- flawed as it is -- that too many Steelers are already in the Hall of Fame, that is hogwash.

It is also a disservice to Bettis as well as the Steelers’ organization.

Want to know why there are so many Steelers in the Hall of Fame? They owned the 1970s and probably didn’t get enough deserving players from the teams that won four Super Bowls from 1974-79 into the Hall of Fame.

Bettis is among the players who laid the foundation for another glorious run that linked the Steelers teams of the 1970s to the ones that won two Super Bowls and played in another from 2005-10.

True, he played on only one of those teams -- Bettis famously retired after Pittsburgh won the 2005 Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit -- but his influence on the Steelers lingered long after he had stopping pushing piles and displaying the kind of footwork that belied a man of his size.

“When I first got here it was the time the WWJD bracelets, What Would Jesus Do, came out and I would laugh when I was doing things and think, What Would Jerome Do,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told Steelers.com earlier this week. “He is someone I tried to mold myself after. That is what made him so special, outside of the talent he had on the field.”

Like Bettis, Greene can only wonder what it will take for him to receive the call from the Hall of Fame.

One of the greatest pass-rushers of his generation fell short of Canton, Ohio, for the 1oth year despite leading the NFL in sacks with two different teams, including the Steelers in 1996, and earning a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990s.

Greene ranks third on the NFL’s all-time sacks list (160), and, like Bettis, he put up the kinds of numbers that should one day land him in the Hall of Fame.

The question with both remains when.
PITTSBURGH -- Art Rooney II said it succinctly.

The Steelers president also said it best in regard to Jerome Bettis' fourth bid to gain entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It's time.

Amen to that.

It can be argued that the more pertinent question when it comes to Bettis and the Hall of Fame is this: Why hasn't “The Bus” pulled into Canton, Ohio, already?

Bettis retired after the 2005 season as the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history with 13,662 yards. He is now sixth on that list, and all of the players in front of him who are eligible for the Hall of Fame are in it.

This should be the year that Bettis, one of 15 modern-day finalists for the Hall of Fame, joins them in football immortality.

Full disclosure: Bettis, who will be among those voted on Saturday, is an NFL analyst for ESPN. However, I was given the freedom to make a case for or against him getting into the Hall of Fame.

I frankly don't know of a credible argument I could make against Bettis.

He was one of the most productive running backs in NFL history. He was also unique.

Bettis may have been the best big back of all-time, and he was anything but a plodding, pile pusher.

Bettis' quick feet were as critical to his success as his sheer bulk -- his playing weight was listed at 255 pounds -- and power. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, which is just a tick below what Hall of Famer Curtis Martin averaged during his career.

Bettis' value transcended the six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons he posted after the Steelers heisted him from the Rams in the greatest trade in franchise history. It also went beyond his ability to grind out the clock when the Steelers were protecting a fourth-quarter lead.

Bettis made those around him better because of the respect he garnered for playing through the pain that is a daily companion for a workhorse back -- and doing so with a smile.

Bettis was also so beloved by teammates that they wanted to win for him as much as for themselves, particularly at the end of his career.

The desire to get Bettis to the Super Bowl in 2005 helped fuel a stirring postseason run that the Steelers capped by beating the Seahawks for their first world championship since 1979.

Bettis called it a career after getting the one thing that had eluded him -- in his hometown of Detroit, no less -- and now it's time for him to receive an honor that has been equally as elusive as a Super Bowl title.

There are plenty of other people stating his case -- from Rooney, who is anything but prone to hyperbole, to Bill Cowher, who coached him, and Mike Tomlin, who coached against him.

Typical of the support Bettis' latest Hall of Fame bid has received is what Franco Harris said.

“Why he isn't in there, I have no clue,” Harris told Steelers.com. “Should he be in there this year? Absolutely. You are talking about a great football player. I am hoping that he will be able to join me in the Hall of Fame this year.”

Bettis has been gracious about his omission from the Hall of Fame, and he is at peace with the argument he made for inclusion in it during a career that spanned from 1993-2005.

“The way I look at it is I can't be selfish in that why am I not in now?” Bettis said. “I think when my timing is there I'll be in.”

As Rooney said, it's time.
PITTSBURGH -- No one in the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room should be more excited about the addition of offensive line coach Mike Munchak than rookie running back Le'Veon Bell.

Bell will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the improvement that should take place up front with Munchak mentoring a young and promising offensive line. He should also thrive in the zone blocking scheme that Munchak is expected to make a staple of the Steelers'offense.

Bell is a patient yet decisive runner and that blend is perfect for zone blocking, which requires backs to read and react.

[+] EnlargeLe'Veon Bell
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsLe'Veon Bell's running style seems well-suited for the zone-blocking scheme the Steelers are expected to adopt.
Bell rushed for 860 yards last season despite missing the first three games with a foot injury and broke Franco Harris' Steelers record for yards from scrimmage for a rookie (1,259).

The 6-foot-1, 244-pounder is one of the biggest reasons the Steelers' offense could really take off next season, and he could get a lot better with Munchak now coaching the Steelers' offensive line.

Bell was the easy choice for the the Joe Greene Performance Award, which goes annually to the top Steelers rookie. While accepting the award Bell talked about how he watched the Steelers while growing up outside of Columbus, Ohio, and that he had always associated the team with cold weather and running the ball.

Bell never got a chance to see Harris play, but he followed Jerome Bettis and admired the way "The Bus" churned out tough yards on the way to a Hall of Fame-caliber career.

Bettis, it turns out, has been following Bell for a while, too.

The Detroit native kept his eye on Bell during the latter's career at Michigan State, and he applauded the Steelers' decision to take Bell in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft.

That pick looked better and better as the season progressed and Bell got more acclimated to the speed of the NFL game.

"I was really impressed at how well he developed," Bettis said. "He's a big, physical guy."

Bettis congratulated Bell via Twitter after the latter rushed for 124 yards in a Dec. 22 game at Green Bay, and he plans on talking to Bell in the near future.

"I'm definitely going to reach out to him at some point," said Bettis, who is an ESPN NFL analyst. "I'm a huge fan."
PITTSBURGH -- He couldn’t have scripted the end of his Hall of Fame-caliber career any better.

Jerome Bettis won the Super Bowl that had been so elusive, and he did so in his hometown of Detroit.

The former Steelers great then made a seamless transition into his post-football life in part because he did not have a choice.

[+] EnlargeJerome Bettis
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsOn Jerome Bettis' Hall of Fame resume -- helping the Steelers capture Super Bowl XL.
The player known as “The Bus” got married in 2006, sixth months after he rolled gloriously into retirement, and he and his wife, Trameka, have an 8-year-old daughter, Jade, and a 6-year-old son, Jerome Jr.

Family life has kept Bettis as busy as his varied business interests and his work as an NFL analyst for ESPN and WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh.

“I do have moments when I feel like I’m Mr. Mom,” Bettis said with a laugh.

His children have given him perspective and taught him patience, and Bettis has had to tap into the latter while waiting to gain entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Is this the year that Bettis, who ranks sixth in NFL history in rushing yards, finally achieves football immortality?

Art Rooney II, the antithesis of the owner who talks just to hear himself talk, has said he will be disappointed if Bettis does not get into the Hall of Fame on his fourth try. It is simply time, Rooney said.

If Bettis is voted in on Feb. 1, the day before Super Bowl XLVIII, the last thing he will say is "what took so long."

“I understand the process now and I know that I can’t become emotionally invested in the process because when you look at everybody on that list, not just the finalists, you look at the semifinalists, everybody deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Bettis, one of the greatest big backs in NFL history. “The fact that I’m [a finalist] is an incredible honor. Whoever gets in deserves to be in because all of the names on that list deserve to be in, but you can’t put everybody in.”

Bettis is one of 15 modern-day finalists for the Hall of Fame along with two nominees from the Hall’s veterans committee.

As few as four and as many as seven can be voted into the Hall of Fame, and Bettis knows as well as anyone that there are no guarantees. He no longer does the math or assesses his chances before the vote having been in this position for each of the past three years.

Enshrinement in Canton is something which Bettis has no control, and he is at peace with the argument he made for inclusion in the Hall of Fame by rumbling for 13,662 yards from 1993-2005 and making six Pro Bowls during that span.

“You take yourself through that journey and then that disappointment [of not making it] is natural, but you shouldn’t be disappointed because it didn’t affect my career,” Bettis said. “I can’t look at it that way because then it’s kind of tainting my career. I had a heck of a career. I’m proud of everything I accomplished and so that’s kind of the way I look at it. Hopefully my time will come.”

And if it does this year?

“The way I look at it is I can’t be selfish in that why am I not in now?” Bettis said. “I think when my timing is there I’ll be in.”
Mike Tomlin's worst nightmare could accompany the Steelers to the serene setting of St. Vincent College in late July.

The Steelers are one of just eight teams that are, ahem, eligible for HBO's “Hard Knocks” this year, and imagine the ratings bonanza that the only team to win six Super Bowls would provide with an inside look at its training camp.

Tomlin surely does not want to find out just how many viewers the Steelers would attract by appearing on "Hard Knocks."

He is as closely guarded about his team's inner workings as any coach, and Tomlin loves training camp because it minimizes distractions with players living in dorm rooms and abiding by curfews at the small college that has hosted the Steelers every summer for almost 50 years.

TV cameras with the kind of access that “Hard Knocks” enjoys are the last thing Tomlin wants as he molds a team that has missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time on his watch.

The best-case scenario for Tomlin and the Steelers is that one of the other teams eligible for “Hard Knocks” is so desperate for the publicity that it lobbies the NFL to be the subject of the long-running series.

The Jaguars are among the eight teams eligible for “Hard Knocks,” and no team has more trouble filling its stadium than Jacksonville. The Steelers, meanwhile, need “Hard Knocks” as much as they need another season of offensive linemen dropping like bowling pins.

The show would offer a compelling look at Tomlin and one of the NFL's flagship franchises behind closed doors. But you can bet the Steelers will do everything they can to keep HBO from documenting their training camp anytime soon.

In other Steelers/NFL news:
  • The Steelers are down to one representative in the Pro Bowl after strong safety Troy Polamalu opted out of the annual all-star game with an injury. Funny, that Polamalu played every snap this season. But it's hard to blame him for withdrawing from a game that should have been put out of its misery by now and replaced with some sort of showcase anchored by a skills competition. Browns safety T.J. Ward replaced Polamalu on the Pro Bowl roster, giving four-win Cleveland six Pro Bowlers.
  • The extra-point could be getting the boot, and I would have no problem if the NFL did away with it. Forget ways to make the play after a touchdown more meaningful. How about getting rid of a kick that has become automatic to shave a little time off games that are getting longer and longer?

Here are a few other links:
  • Steelers.com's Mike Prisuta looks at playing running back from the eyes of Le'Veon Bell. Speaking of Bell, I talked to former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis about a number of subjects and he is a big fan of Bell and plans on reaching out to him. I will have more on that, the Hall of Fame and Bettis' take on the Steelers in later posts.
  • ESPN.com Browns reporters Pat McManamon takes a look at the history Cleveland's next head coach will have to overcome.
  • CBS NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler provides an update from the Senior Bowl, and among the players who jumped out at him during the North team's first practice were Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Is this the year for Jerome Bettis?

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
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Steel City wake-up: morning links

Running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene are former Steelers who are among the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This should be the year that Bettis achieves football immortality as Hall of Fame voter Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Alan Robinson does the math and concludes that the Steelers should sign quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a contract extension during the offseason.

Director of football administration Omar Khan is among those whom the Miami Dolphins are considering for the opening they have at general manager. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac reports that Shaun Sarrett has interviewed for the opening the Steelers have at offensive line coach.

Here is a look at what else is going on around the AFC North:
  • ESPN.com Bengals reporter Coley Harvey weighs in on the change at offensive coordinator with Hue Jackson taking over for Jay Gruden, who was introduced Thursday as the Redskins’ new coach. As Harvey writes, Jackson’s promotion should lead to more balance in Cincinnati.
  • ESPN.com Browns reporter Pat McManamon is still in the midst of a coaching search, and he opines that Cleveland was smart to add Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to its list of candidates. Whisenhunt, the former Steelers offensive coordinator and Cardinals coach, has been linked to a handful of teams that need a head coach.
  • ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley gives us Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti’s take on officiating in the NFL. Interesting to note that Bisciotti seems to favor a streamlined model for instant replay used by the NHL.
PITTSBURGH – A rule that stops a play as soon as a helmet comes off took a touchdown away from Le'Veon Bell last Thursday night. But the Pittsburgh Steelers running back scored in just about every other way imaginable near the end of a loss to the Ravens.

Some Ravens players have wished Bell well on Twitter and expressed their respect for the rookie embracing a head-on collision that left him with a concussion. And his teammates surely respect Bell for lowering his head at about the same time as Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith because of his determination to get into the end zone.

[+] EnlargeBell
AP Photo/Gail BurtonLe'Veon Bell has been praised for his toughness, including the big hit he took on Thanksgiving.
At 6-foot-1 and 244 pounds, Bell is built for a rivalry that is as violent and nasty as ever. He is built for Pittsburgh, too, and is the running back who most reflects the city’s blue-collar sensibilities since Jerome Bettis suited up for the Steelers.

“He’s bigger than I think people really understand,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said of Bell. “He’s been extremely tough all year. He’s going to be a star here, I believe.”

Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley agreed with Clark. Sort of.

“I’m not going to start carving the bust for Canton, but at the same time, we've been excited from Day One [about] the things that he’s shown us, the attitude, his development, and he had some setbacks and he handled those in a positive manner,” Haley said. “He’s not there yet but he’s gotten better every week and definitely has the skill set and things you’re looking for.”

Bell is as important in the passing attack as he is in the ground game because of his reliable hands and the trust he has already earned from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for his ability to identify and pick up blitzing linebackers.

Running the ball appears to be the last part of Bell’s game to truly come together, and part of that can be attributed to the Steelers’ season-long difficulty to consistently open holes for the backs. Despite averaging 3.3 yards per carry, Bell has shown promising glimpses. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his first two games against Baltimore.

Bell also matched the Ravens’ physicality in both meetings, and he said the extreme example of that – the collision with Smith while also taking a shot from Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw – won’t change his running style.

“As a running back you can’t think about getting hit because you’re going to get hit regardless,” Bell said. “That’s not the hardest I've been hit, and I’m sure I’ll get harder. I was just trying to do whatever it took to win. I really just wanted to get into the end zone.”

That mindset is one of many things for the Steelers to like about Bell. Here is another reason: Bell has completely transformed the Steelers’ running game, and he is still just scratching his potential as a runner.

“You’ve got a guy back there that’s a big dog, so to speak. It gives you a chance to be multidimensional and helps a lot of people out,” Haley said. “He gets it.”

Bettis doesn't see major changes coming

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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PITTSBURGH -- Disgruntled Pittsburgh Steelers fans who have directed much of their ire toward Todd Haley won’t like what Jerome Bettis said Wednesday morning on ESPN’s "Mike & Mike."

Bettis told hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg that he doesn’t believe there will be any major changes even if the Steelers suffer their first losing season under seventh-year coach Mike Tomlin.

That includes Haley, the second-year offensive coordinator who has been heavily criticized during the team’s worst start since 2000.

“I don’t believe he would be on the block,” Bettis said.

The Steelers are loath to attach the word transition to this year’s squad. But Bettis said he thinks the organization knows that the Steelers are indeed in transition, particularly when it comes to a young offensive line that is still trying to find its way.

Bettis, one of the greatest players in franchise history, endured a stretch where the Steelers missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons (1998-2000) and had back-to-back losing seasons during that span.

He knows how much the Rooneys value stability. And that is another reason he doesn’t see any major changes coming even if the Steelers fail to get things going following an 0-3 start.

“I think they understand where they are,” Bettis said. “This is a team that’s developing. I think they want to be competitive while they are developing.”

But that is the rub when it comes to Haley’s future with the team.

If the offense doesn't make noticeable improvement over the course of the season, Haley could well be in trouble.

And it is worth noting that while the organization stuck with Bill Cowher after some lean seasons, Cowher went through his share of offensive coordinators during his time as the Steelers’ head coach.
Jerome Bettis, the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and newest member of ESPN, joined "SportsCenter" to talk about his physical running style, the impact it made on his career and his thoughts on Adrian Peterson. As pointed out in the interview, it's amazing that Bettis has been retired for eight seasons.

Next stop for 'The Bus' is ESPN

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
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Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis has joined ESPN as an NFL analyst. Known as "The Bus" during his 13-year NFL career, Bettis will appear on "NFL Live" and "SportsCenter" and contribute to other ESPN platforms, beginning Sept. 1.

I wonder if there will be any collisions in Bristol if Bettis crosses paths with Ray Lewis, who is also an ESPN analyst this year.

"I'm so excited to join ESPN and bring the same passion, knowledge, and leadership that helped me win a world championship when I was a player," Bettis said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to working with my new team to bring the game closer to home for all the fans to enjoy.”

Bettis has appeared as a guest on ESPN shows throughout the years, including the Super Bowl XLV edition of "Sunday NFL Countdown" in 2011 when the Steelers played the Packers. Bettis previously worked as an analyst for NBC Sports.

“Jerome is accomplished, knowledgeable and charismatic -- and he’s a very familiar face to NFL fans; he will be a great addition to our team of NFL analysts,” said Seth Markman, ESPN senior coordinating producer for NFL studio programs.
NEW ORLEANS -- Steelers running back Jerome Bettis failed to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame for a third straight year.

Bettis is the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history with 13,662 yards. The top four (Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin) are in the Hall of Fame, and LaDainian Tomlinson, who is fifth, retired before the start of the 2012 season.

What hurts Bettis is his yards per carry, which was a less-than-impressive 3.9.

In his first two years of eligibility, he has been blocked by other running backs -- Marshall Faulk in 2011 and Martin in 2012.
NEW ORLEANS -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis has his best shot yet at making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But it still remains uncertain whether he gets voted in Saturday evening.

In his first two years of eligibility, he has been blocked by other running backs -- Marshall Faulk in 2011 and Curtis Martin in 2012. This year, Bettis is the only running back among the 15 modern era finalists.

Three first-year candidates are expected to get voted in: Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, Cowboys guard Larry Allen and Giants defensive end Michael Strahan. Bill Parcells, who won two Super Bowls as a coach, should make the Hall of Fame as well.

That leaves one spot left for the modern era candidates. Bettis' chief competition is defensive end Charles Haley or one of the wide receivers (Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed).

Bettis 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 in the Hall of Fame, and LaDainian Tomlinson, who is fifth, retired before the start of the 2012 season.
As the football world begins to focus on the Ravens and 49ers, it's getting to be very quiet with the other teams in the division. Not even the local papers are writing much about their teams. Here's what I could dig up in the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: The Ravens are heading to the Super Bowl relatively healthy. Coach John Harbaugh reported no new injuries on Monday. Four players were listed as questionable for the AFC Championship Game -- fullback Vonta Leach (right knee, ankle), inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (sprained right ankle, back), running back Bernard Pierce (knee) and reserve wide receiver David Reed (thigh) -- all played. According to The Baltimore Sun, left tackle Bryant McKinnie was noticeably limping after the game but he didn't miss any time in the game.

BENGALS: The Bengals are in good position for this year's draft with three picks in the first 54 selections, according to the team's official website. "They've got prime real estate," said Brian Simmons, a former Bengals first-round draft pick who an area scout for the Jaguars. "This is a draft that's not top heavy with a lot of talent, but it's got a lot of good players that can make teams better."

STEELERS: Jerome Bettis is looking to get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his third year as a finalist. He has run for the sixth-most yards in NFL history, and he is the only eligible back among the top 10 who is not yet in the Hall of Fame. "The sixth-best running back in the NFL should be in the Hall of Fame," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

BROWNS: Chief executive officer Joe Banner told Sports Illustrated that it was the Browns who walked away from Chip Kelly and not the other way around. "We removed ourselves from the process," Banner said. "We really liked Chip. He's intriguing, a very different thinker, and very smart. But you could see he was uncertain what he wanted to do. He may be in Philadelphia 10 years or longer and have a terrific career. But the fact he committed to Tampa Bay last year, backed out, then seemed all year to be leaning toward going to the NFL, then being so uncertain with us, we just felt it was too big a gamble. If there was no ambivalence, we may have offered him the job.''

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