PITTSBURGH -- Fittingly, The Bus went last.
After teammates soaked up the cheers onstage from an adoring
black and gold-clad crowd at the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers'
Super Bowl victory parade on Tuesday, running back Jerome Bettis
held the Vince Lombardi trophy high above his head and took the
"I'm so thankful for everything this city has done for me,"
said Bettis, who announced his retirement after the Steelers won
their fifth NFL championship on Sunday.
"I'm so thankful we're able to give this city one for the
thumb," he said in reference to the team's rallying cry to win a
fifth championship as fans twirled their gold Terrible Towels in
The burly Bettis likely shared the same stage with his teammates
for the last time. And while he won the Super Bowl in his hometown
of Detroit, to Steeler fans he's as much a part of Pittsburgh as
iron, steel and ketchup.
"I'm ecstatic," said Joe Rosso, 21, who held a handwritten
"Thank you Jerome" sign above his head. "That he got to end his
career in Detroit with a Super Bowl is a dream."
"Win one for the Bus" was as much a rallying cry for the
Steelers as "One for the Thumb" in their march to the title.
Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward, who spoke to the crowd before Bettis,
lauded his teammate one more time.
"I'm going to enjoy the time I spent with Jerome," Ward said.
"We're sending Jerome out on a great note."
Bettis, wearing a long, mustard-yellow parka, rode the parade
route atop a convertible with the top down. His parents were at the
parade, too, but rode in a pickup truck ahead of their son.
"Everyone in this organization wanted to get this one for you
all," Bettis said as Steelers owner Dan Rooney and coach Bill
Cowher looked on.
Bettis is retiring as the league's No. 5 career rusher, and his
impact inside the Steelers' locker room was just as prominent. In
recent seasons, though, he was relegated more to short-yardage or
goal-line situations. He finished with 43 yards on 14 carries in
the Super Bowl.
His fans were out in full force Tuesday, and Bettis jerseys were
everywhere. At the end of the parade route, Rick Thomas, 36, waited
in vain for Bettis to pass by and take a look at an ATV outfitted
with cardboard painted yellow and made to look like a school bus,
in honor of Bettis' nickname.
"Just a little tribute to the Bus," Thomas said. Nearby fans
took pictures in front of the contraption, which has the phrase
"The Bus is rolling home" painted on the side.