Pittsburgh Steelers: Jerome Bettis

No one can offer a better perspective on the two leading rushers in Pittsburgh Steelers history than Dick Hoak.

He joined Chuck Noll’s staff as a running backs coach in 1972 -- the same year the Steelers drafted Franco Harris in the first round. Hoak later endorsed the Steelers trading for Jerome Bettis after his rushing totals with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams dropped from 1,429 yards as a rookie in 1993 to 637 in 1995.

Bettis resurrected his career in Pittsburgh and he has joined Harris as the only Steelers running backs who played in the Super Bowl era to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

While Bettis is sixth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 13,662 yards his 10,571 rushing yards with the Steelers are second to Harris (11,950) in franchise history.

“Jerome would run over you more, Franco would run away from you,” said Hoak, who coached the Steelers running backs from 1972-2006. “Franco was probably faster than Jerome, Jerome was more powerful. Franco, he had great, great vision. Jerome had good vision too but not quite as good as Franco. They were different types of backs.”

And both great in their own right.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were in need of a running back right before the 1996 NFL draft but coach Bill Cowher did not have his eye on a college player when he went to offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and running backs coach Dick Hoak with an assignment.

Cowher asked the two to analyze game tape of a young running back named Jerome Bettis, whose production for the Rams had precipitously dropped after he burst onto the NFL scene in 1993.

"We watched about a half [of a game] and we went into Bill and said, 'Get him,' " Hoak recalled Sunday. "They just didn't use him right. They had quit using him. He started out great and for some reason he just fell out of favor. You could still see the skills that he had and we were happy to take him."

The Steelers, taking advantage of the Rams selling low after a shift in organization philosophy, pulled off one of the greatest trades in franchise history.

They packaged a second-round pick in 1996 with a fourth-rounder in 1997 and received Bettis and a 1996 third-round pick in return.

Bettis immediately became a fan favorite in Pittsburgh and rushed for at least 1,000 yards in his first six seasons with the Steelers. "The Bus" embodied the physical style of play that has long been a hallmark of the Steelers, and he finally pulled into Canton, Ohio, Saturday night when Bettis got voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on his fifth try.

"I don't know why he had to wait this long," Hoak said of Bettis, whose 13,662 rushing yards are still the sixth-most in NFL history. "I don't understand it. I thought he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I'm very happy for him. As well as being a player, he was a great leader. A lot of the younger players looked up to him."

Hoak spent 44 seasons with the Steelers' organization, 10 as a running back and 34 as a running backs coach. He is the only assistant in franchise history to have coached under Chuck Noll and Cowher.

Hoak, who retired after the 2006 season, said Bettis' footwork jumped out the first time he saw him at an offseason practice. That and his sheer size -- the 5-11 Bettis played at or around 260 pounds for most of his 13-year NFL career -- allowed him to become one of the greatest players in franchise history as well as the soul of the Steelers.

As punishing as Bettis was, what also stands out to Hoak about him is the kind of play he made in a game at Cincinnati. Bettis took a handoff and ran right up the middle, Hoak recalled, where a Bengals safety was waiting for him.

Bettis made the kind of jump cut that belied his size and Hoak said, "[The safety] fell flat on his face."

"A lot of people thought he was just a big, strong, run-over-people back but he had great feet, even for a 200-pounder," Hoak said. "There were plays he made that you didn't think a guy that big could make."

Yet the Steelers also relied heavily on Bettis' bulk and power late in games, which is why Hoak said he was one of the best closers of his generation.

"If we were ahead by seven to 10 points with five or six minutes to go the game was usually over," Hoak said, "because we would just put him in and he would control the football."
Jerome Bettis, the latest Pittsburgh Steeler to get voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, set a franchise record with 50 100-yard rushing games.

“The Bus” all but predicted his final one in November, 2005 -- in his own inimitable way -- as former Steelers right guard Kendall Simmons recalled Saturday night on his Twitter account.

Bettis rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns at snowy Heinz Field, running over Chicago Bears running back Brian Urlacher in the process. Bettis led the Steelers to a 21-9 victory that day, starting a run in which Pittsburgh won eight consecutive games on the way to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title since 1979.

Bettis, who is sixth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list (13,662 yards), built another bridge to the dynastic teams of the 1970s when he made the Hall of Fame on his fifth attempt -- and two weeks before he celebrates his 43rd birthday.

[+] EnlargeJerome Bettis
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesJerome Bettis, who played for the Rams and Steelers from 1993-2005, is sixth on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 13,662 yards.
Bettis joins Franco Harris as the only Pittsburgh running backs who played after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to make the Hall of Fame. He is the 23rd Steelers player, coach or owner to make it to Canton, Ohio, and his value to one of the NFL’s most storied franchises transcended his production.

Bettis became one of the best leaders in franchise history and the Steelers unofficially retired his No. 36 after Bettis called it a career following the 2005 season.

Nothing better showed how beloved the six-time Pro Bowler was among his teammates than wide receiver Hines Ward shedding tears in the aftermath of the Steelers’ loss to the New England Patriots in the 2004 AFC Championship Game.

Ward became so overcome with emotion because he wanted the Steelers to win the Super Bowl for Bettis.

The Steelers delivered that crowning achievement the following season in Bettis’ hometown of Detroit, and he announced his retirement right after the game.

He received the highest individual award in football almost a decade later, one the Steelers felt was long overdue.

"The Bus" is poised to make his final stop in football.

Jerome Bettis is one of 18 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- the latest class will be announced Saturday night -- and the former Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Rams running back's arrival in Canton, Ohio might be overdue.

Bettis remains the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history (13,662 yards) nearly a decade since his retirement -- which he announced right after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL in his hometown of Detroit -- and he is the only player among the NFL's top 10 all-time rushers who is eligible for the Hall of Fame and is not in it.

Bettis is a finalist for the Hall of Fame for the fifth consecutive year, and it's hard to see what his résumé is lacking.

His 50 100-yard rushing games for the Steelers are a franchise record and Bettis made six Pro Bowls in a career that spanned 1993-2005. Bettis has a Super Bowl ring, he has iconic moments -- none stand out more than his running over Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on a snowy day in 2005 -- and he has the numbers.

The one knock against Bettis may be that he averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. Bettis, however, was at his best when the Steelers got a lead in the fourth quarter of games and used him to grind out the clock.

Former New York Jets and Washington Redskins running back John Riggins also averaged 3.9 yards a carry during his career but Riggins, who was also a big back, has been in the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1992.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame class will be announced on Jan. 31. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Jerome Bettis is one of 18 finalists.

[+] EnlargeJerome Bettis
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesJerome Bettis finished his career with 13,662 rushing yards and 91 touchdowns.
Bettis has been here before so the former Steelers and Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams running back can be excused if he did not pop any Champagne corks after making a significant cut for the Hall of Fame.

Bettis joins 14 others who remain on track for football's ultimate destination as announced Thursday night on The NFL Network. Bettis is a finalist for the Hall of Fame for the fifth consecutive year, and he made it to the final 10 last year.

It is hard to imagine his wait for football immortality lasting longer than the rest of the month.

Bettis remains sixth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list (13,662 yards) a decade after he retired -- right after the Steelers won the 2005 Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit. Bettis made six Pro Bowls, his 50 100-yard rushing games with the Steelers are a franchise record and that is only where his Canton-worthy resume starts.

Bettis’ value too extends beyond the prodigious numbers he put up during a career that spanned from 1993-2005.

He is on a short list of the Steelers’ greatest leaders in the post-1970s era if not in franchise history.

Bettis is also on a short list of best big backs in NFL history.

Hall of Fame voters have to select at least four of the 15 modern-day finalists and no more than seven the day before the Super Bowl. It will be a head shaker if Bettis is not on the list of new inductees.

Just like it was last year.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are just percentage points out of first place in the AFC North but they lead the division when it comes to the ESPN NFL Power Rankings.

The Steelers moved up two spots after rallying from an 11-point second-half deficit on Monday night to beat the Tennessee Titans, 27-24.

The Steelers are No. 12 in the power rankings, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals (No. 13), Baltimore Ravens (No. 14) and Cleveland Browns (No. 17).

The Browns fell out of first place in the AFC North following a 23-7 loss to the Houston Texans.

The Bengals (6-3-1) are in first place in the division, just ahead of the Steelers (7-4). The division rivals play Dec. 7 in Cincinnati and Dec. 28 in Pittsburgh.

Here are a few leftover notes from the Steelers' win over the Titans (they got a little lost in the aftermath of the LeGarrette Blount drama):
  • Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who is on the practice squad, traveled with the Steelers to Tennessee as a reward for his military service. Villanueva, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger who served with distinction in Afghanistan, was an honorary captain against the Titans. He is also the player quarterback Ben Roethlisberger brought up when he exhorted his teammates to run out the clock when the Steelers got the ball back with seven minutes left in the game. The Steelers did just that, running 10 plays before Roethlisberger twice took a knee to preserve a three-point victory. “Al is our guy,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “We're blessed to have him on our team. For someone to go over there and do some of the things he did over there and serve his country it's a blessing to be around him.”
  • One of the Steelers' worst sequences of the season came at the end of the first half when Roethlisbeger threw an interception in the end zone after miscommunication between the 11th-year veteran and wide receiver Antonio Brown. The Titans followed that takeaway with an 80-yard touchdown pass. It came with less than a minute to play after wide receiver Nate Washington blew past cornerback William Gay and scored easily after catching a pass from Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger. “They dialed up a double move and got us,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “They protected, they ran a good route and (Mettenberger) executed a throw but at the same time but at the same time we're talking about 80 yards from paydirt in situational football. That's unacceptable.” Neither Tomlin nor Gay would say if the latter should have had safety help. “We accept responsibility for that and I tip my cap to those guys for good execution,” Tomlin said.
  • The Steelers players will practice today and then take the rest of the week off. Per the collective bargaining agreement, teams have to give players four consecutive days off during the bye week. That is why the work week for the Steelers' players will end this afternoon. The Steelers go into the bye week on a positive note, and when they return to work on Monday they will start preparing for a Nov. 30 game against the visiting New Orleans Saints. “We have to get healthy and then keep gaining momentum,” right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “This team's on the rise.”
  • Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene are among the semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell is quietly building a strong case for MVP consideration.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back ranks among the NFL's top three in rushing yards (599), yards from scrimmage (938) and first down (44).

And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Bell, who has played in just 20 NFL games, is only going to get better.

"I don't even think we've used him to the full potential," Roethlisberger said. "When we go no-huddle and I'm calling the plays I like to get him out in empty sets because you can utilize him in mismatches. I still think the best is yet to come from him."

One of Bell's best attributes is his versatility and he is as comfortable catching the ball after lining up as a wideout as he out of the backfield. Bell caught eight passes for 88 yards in the Steelers' 30-23 win over the Houston Texans last Monday night, and his 43-yard catch-and-run served as the catalyst in a 24-point explosion late in the second quarter.

Bell is not even halfway through his second NFL season but he has already set a Steelers record for most yards from scrimmage (2,197 yards) after two seasons. The 2013 second-round pick needs just 295 yards to pass Franco Harris for the most rushing yards by a Steelers player in his first two seasons.

Bell is also close to another milestone.

If the 6-1, 225-pounder gain 50 yards from scrimmage Sunday against the visiting Indianapolis Colts he will pass Barry Foster and Jerome Bettis for the most yards from scrimmage by a Steelers player in the first eight games of a season since 1970, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Bell's emergence has led to fewer carries for LeGarrette Blount, who was signed in March to complement Bell, but it doesn't appear that the Steelers are overworking him.

Bell is averaging just under 22 touches per game and the Michigan State product said he has learned this season to avoid hard hits, something that should also allow him to thrive while weathering the grind of an NFL season.

"We don't want to run him until the wheels fall off but you've got to have him out there because he can do a little bit of everything," Roethlisberger said, "and that's why I think he's one of the best all-around backs in the game."

LATROBE, Pa. -- Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was always one of the better interviews during the four seasons he spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He almost always gave thoughtful and honest answers, and I don't want to bash him for his unvarnished take on Peyton Manning's leadership compared to that of Ben Roethlisberger.

Too often we, as in the media, complain that the players and teams we cover give responses to our questions that are as canned as they are clichéd. And then we club them over the head with their words if they ignite a controversy.

What I can't reconcile with Sanders' assertion that Manning is a "far better leader" than Roethlisberger is a scene inside a silent visiting locker room at M&T Bank Stadium late last November.

The Steelers had just suffered a crushing 22-20 loss to the Ravens after rallying back from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit. They should have tied the game late when Roethlisberger put a two-point conversion pass right on Sanders' hands.

Sanders dropped the ball, bringing to a screeching halt the three-game winning steak and momentum that the Steelers had taken into the game on Thanksgiving night.

Inside the Steelers' locker room, just after the scab had been ripped off a team that had started the season 0-4, Roethlisberger put his arm around his crestfallen teammate and talked into the earhole of Sanders' helmet.

A little later Roethlisberger offered similar encouraging words when he spoke to reporters about Sanders -- as well as an endorsement of a wide receiver whose next 100-yard game will be his first in the NFL.

If what Roethlisberger did in that locker room when emotions were still so raw isn't leadership, I don't know what is. And I keep flashing back to that scene with Sanders standing by what he said on a Denver radio station a couple of weeks ago.

I applaud Sanders for owning his comments and not playing the taken-out-of-context card.

But he is off base, and not just because Roethlisberger was one of his biggest supporters when the two were teammates.

Sure, Roethlisberger doesn’t throw to his wide receivers after practice as much as Manning does, but one of Manning's hallmarks is his obsessive attention to detail. How many quarterbacks wouldn't suffer in comparison to Manning when looking solely at the extra work they put in with their wide receivers?

Also, Sanders apparently hasn't kept up with what has been going on with the Steelers since he signed with the Broncos.

Roethlisberger has never been more engaged with his wide receivers, and he has been their coach as much as their quarterback at training camp.

This is clearly his offense.

And his team.

Sanders doesn't owe Roethlisberger an apology even though former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was spot-on when he said there are different kinds of leadership.

Sanders truly believes what he said, and he has a right to his opinion.

He does owe his former quarterback a phone call, if only so Roethlisberger can ask a simple question: Why take a shot at a former teammate who picked up Sanders during one of his lowest moments as a professional?
Jerome Bettis defended Ben Roethlisberger on Tuesday, saying on ESPN's "First Take" that his former Pittsburgh Steelers teammate is a good leader with simply a different style from Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

"I don't believe that Ben falls short in the leadership department," said Bettis, who won a Super Bowl with Roethlisberger and the Steelers in 2005. "You don't win a championship with a lack of leadership."

Former Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders created a stir Monday when he told KKFM in Denver that Manning is a "far better leader" than Roethlisberger. Sanders played his first four NFL seasons with Roethlisberger and the Steelers before signing with the Broncos in March.

"This is the first time that I had a quarterback that stays every single day after practice, no matter what his accolades," Sanders told KKFM about Manning. "He's not one of those guys you gotta go chase down. He's gonna be right at the same spot ready to work every single day."

Bettis said Sanders' comments were misguided and "a little disrespectful" to Roethlisberger.

"I think [Sanders] misunderstood what leadership is and he misspoke, and I think it was a little bit of a jab," said Bettis, who is an NFL analyst for ESPN. "I think if he had a chance, he'd take it back. It's not that Ben doesn't lead. He just leads differently than Peyton does."

Sanders took to Twitter on Monday following the ripple effects of his comparison between Manning and Roethlisberger and stood by what he said.

Asked about Roethlisberger's leadership, Bettis said the Steelers quarterback talked him into returning for one more season after Pittsburgh lost to the New England Patriots in the 2004 AFC Championship Game.

Bettis won the Super Bowl ring that had eluded him in 2005 before retiring.

"Ben Roethlisberger told me, 'Hey, don't retire. I'm going to get you a championship. Trust me on this,'" Bettis said. "After every playoff game [in 2005], he gave me the game ball. After we won the Super Bowl, he gave me the game ball. That's leadership."

Not forgetting Big Ben's tackle

July, 14, 2014
Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" proved to be a landslide winner in a recent ESPN.com poll of the Steelers' most memorable plays, and that was a foregone conclusion.

A discussion of the other two most memorable plays in Steelers' history generated a lot of debate and for good reason.

There were so many worthy ones that did not make the final three, from John Stallworth's over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in Super Bowl XIV and any number of Lynn Swann grabs in the Super Bowl to Troy Polamalu's interception for a return touchdown in the 2008 AFC Championship Game.

"Where is Ben's tackle?" Polamalu asked when I talked to him about the greatest plays in Steelers history and specifically James Harrison's 100-yard interception return in Super Bowl XLIII.

That is a great question.

Of all the plays that did not make the final three, none received more nominations or mentions from Steelers fans via Twitter than Ben Roethlisberger's touchdown-saving tackle in a 21-18 win over the Indianapolis Colts in a 2005 AFC divisional playoff game.

And of all the great plays Roethlisberger has made over the last decade none may be more significant than his tackle of Colts cornerback Nick Harper following a Jerome Bettis fumble as the Steelers were going in for the game-clinching touchdown.

It was such a stunning turn of events with the underdog Steelers poised to seal an upset over the Peyton Manning-led Colts, and only a shoestring tackle by Roethlisberger saved Pittsburgh from one of the most devastating losses in franchise history.

As for Roethlisberger's take on his best-ever tackle, he said, "Because it's a quarterback making a tackle I think that's why it's so unusual. But in the grand scheme of championship runs, if I make that play and we lose the game no one's talking about it. But because we won the game it became such a big deal."

That is precisely why it is such a big deal.

The Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl for the first time since the dynastic teams of the 1970s, and there is no telling how things would have played out beyond 2005 if they had lost that game.

The Steelers had endured so much playoff heartbreak under coach Bill Cowher. Losing a game they had dominated at the now razed RCA Dome might have allowed serious doubt to creep in about whether they could take that final step from contenders to Super Bowl champions.

The Steelers did get some help after Roethlisberger's tackle, most notably from Mike Vanderjagt.

The Colts kicker shanked a 46-yard field goal attempt on the final play, sending the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game.

And there was no stopping them from that point with Bettis' fumble becoming a mere footnote to his retiring as a Super Bowl champion.

"It was just so unbelievable when it happened," Roethlisberger said of one of the defining sequences of his career, "and it was just find a way to make a play."

He did and the rest is history.

Bettis, Clark support Michael Sam

February, 9, 2014

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."

Steel City wake-up: Here are some Monday leftovers with the 2013 season now in the rearview mirror.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell renewed his push to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams during his state of the league address last Friday.

Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t share Goodell’s enthusiasm for adding a team in each conference to the postseason.

“To me I kind of like it the way it is,” the Steelers quarterback told 93.7 The Fan on Saturday. “If it stays the way it is, then that makes you play that much harder in the regular season to get in. You shouldn’t reward extra teams for not playing well early in the year or late in the year. It should stay the way it is and make you play good all year.”

Goodell, during his annual question-and-answer session at the Super Bowl, supported his position by talking about how expanding the playoffs would add to the excitement at the end of the regular season with more teams in postseason contention.

Roethlisberger is not alone in taking a more cynical view of why Goodell wants to expand the playoffs.

“Of course it would be good for the game for Roger and the money he can make,” Roethlisberger said, “which sometimes that’s all players think that he wants is just to make more money.”

To be fair -- and accurate -- 75 percent of the owners (24 of 32) would have to vote in favor of expanding the playoffs for it to happen. And players, who are fairly well compensated, would also benefit from the extra revenue that a change in the playoff formation would generate.
  • The big Steelers news over the weekend was Jerome Bettis getting denied entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fourth consecutive year. Bettis, classy as usual, took to Twitter after the 2014 class was announced to thank the Steelers for their support. My feeling is that “The Bus” will make a stop in Canton, Ohio, at some point, though I’m still miffed that it hasn’t happened yet.
  • Outside linebacker Jason Worilds told ESPN.com on Friday that he wants to stay with the Steelers if the situation is right for him. Translation: He wants assurances that the Steelers view him as a long-term starter after he led the team with eight sacks in 2013. I’ve gotten some feedback from readers who bristled at what they see as Worilds making demands after just one good season. Let me be clear on this: Worilds was not making any demands; he was simply being honest in assessing his future. Having played out his contract, it is his right to explore opportunities elsewhere if he is not comfortable with his standing in Pittsburgh. Here is a good take from SteelersDepot.com on what the Steelers should do with Worilds.

Around the AFC North…
  • ESPN has reported that Kyle Shanahan will be the next offensive coordinator in Cleveland. NFL Insider Matt Williamson breaks down how the Browns’ offensive personnel would mesh with Shanahan’s philosophy.
  • Ray Rice is anything but discouraged after he had the worst season of his NFL career and the Ravens missed the playoffs a season after winning the Super Bowl. The veteran running back, as ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley points out, predicts more than just a rebound for the Ravens.
  • Bengals.com reporter Coley Harvey asks fans whether Andy Dalton is the long-term answer at quarterback in Cincinnati. As Harvey writes, the fans are getting impatient with Dalton, who has yet to win a playoff game.
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.

LaMarr Woodley pulling for Lynch

January, 30, 2014
Steel City wake-up: morning links

The last time the Seattle Seahawks played in the Super Bowl tight end Jerramy Stevens made headlines for inciting a war of words with Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter.

This time a Seahawks player is making news for what he isn't saying.

Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has been a most reluctant participant in the media sessions that are mandatory for the players and coaches on each team.

Lynch has said very little and candidly admitted the only reason he has shown up for the media scrums is so he won't get fined. Lynch has received some criticism for not cooperating more with the media during the sessions, but among those who have defended the Pro Bowl back are Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

Woodley, while appearing on the BET's 106 & Park on Wednesday, predicted that the Seahawks will beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. He also said he will be pulling for Seattle on Sunday because of his friendship with Lynch.

"He's been getting a lot of [criticism] talking about how he don't do no media stuff, but he's a great dude," Woodley said. "He comes out to my football camp every year. He's great with the kids. Everybody loves him and I want to see him get a ring."
  • Jerome Bettis got his ring when the Steelers beat Stevens' Seahawks in the 2005 Super Bowl and then rolled triumphantly into retirement. "The Bus" has yet to pull into Canton, Ohio, but that could change Saturday. Bettis is among 15 modern-day finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and this should be the year he achieves football immortality.
  • Steelers.com's Teresa Varley caught up with Bill Cowher, and the former Steelers coach is among those who are lobbying for Bettis to make it into the Hall of Fame on his fourth try.
  • Here is a clip I meant to post earlier of Bettis and Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen appearing together on ESPN's "SportsCenter." The two talked Pittsburgh and didn't limit their discussion to sports.
  • From the Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette writes that the Seahawks' success could have a similar on impact on Seattle as the Steelers' rise in the 1970s did on Pittsburgh.
  • The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly examines a significant shift in Mike Tomlin's philosophy when it comes to hiring assistant coaches.

And around the rest of the AFC North...
  • ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley has been busy tracking the additions and subtractions on John Harbaugh's coaching staff. Hensley ponders the influence new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak could have as Harbaugh fills the remaining openings on his staff.
  • ESPN.com Browns reporter Pat McManamon writes about Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase -- and how his focus on his current job prevented him from becoming a serious candidate for the head-coaching position that Cleveland filled last week.
  • ESPN.com Bengals reporter Coley Harvey takes a look at how injuries to defensive tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall shaped Cincinnati's season.
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.