Rams’ Trash in 1996 Became the Steelers’ Treasure

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Thanks Rams, Image Courtesy of profootballhof.com

This Saturday the Steelers will be taking on the Rams in what will likely be the last home game of the season for Pittsburgh.  Because the game will be played on Christmas Eve, I thought that it would be nice to take a look back at the best gift that has ever been given to the Steelers by the St. Louis Rams franchise: RB Jerome Bettis.  So hit that “Continue Reading” button and let’s get started:

Introduction

Thank Whatever Deity is in Charge for Rich Brooks:

How the already 2x Pro Bowler Bettis even made his way onto the “trading block” was crazy to say the least.  Bettis burst on the N.F.L. scene as a Rookie in 1993, finished with 1,429 yards rushing, and won the A.P. N.F.L. Rookie of the Year Award while flourishing in then-Head Coach Chuck Knox’s run-heavy Offense.  1994 saw Bettis’ stats drop off a tad, but he still ended the season with 1,024 yards and earned his 2nd Pro Bowl berth.

Brooks' treatment of Bettis and love of the passing game led to Bettis' exit, Image Courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Unfortunately for Bettis, Knox was fired after the 1994 season and former Oregon Head Coach Rich Brooks was brought in to replace him. Bettis wasn’t a fan of the move because Brooks didn’t want to continue to employ the “Ground Chuck” attack that helped Jerome to become a star under Knox.

Moreover, Bettis wanted a new contract that he felt like he deserved after he put together two fantastic seasons for the Rams.  Thus, Jerome held out during Training Camp prior to 1995 and the issues between Brooks and Bettis continued throughout the season.

With Brooks’ negative attitude towards him, playing time taken away from him, and a bum foot to boot, Bettis’ numbers and productivity diminished to the tune of 637 yards rushing in 1995.  Angered and disheartened by the rocky 1995 season, Bettis appeared to be floundering in St. Louis and was in need of a change of scenery. Bettis’ situation in St. Louis was so bad that he was even asked to start taking reps at FB in 1996!  With Rich Brooks and the Rams’ Front Office firmly planted on the anti-Bettis bandwagon, the Rams (who were picking 6th) were interested in getting a new RB in the 1996 N.F.L. Draft.

The Traffic Stop that Changed Steelers History

For those of you that don’t remember, Byron “Bam” Morris was a pretty darn talented player.  The 1993 Doak Walker Award winner from Texas Tech had over 1,000 yards of Total Offense during his Rookie season in 1994 with the Steelers (836 rushing and 204 receiving).  In 1995,  the 250-260 lb. Bam scored 9 TD’s while splitting time with scat-back Eric Pee-Wee Pegram.  Bam and Pegram were nice compliments to each other that season and had a nice “Thunder & Lightning” thing going.  Morris even had a decent day in Super Bowl XXX and gained 73 yards on the ground with a TD.

Bam's bad behavior forced the Front Office to ship him out, Image Courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Yep, things were looking up for the 24 year old Bam and the Steelers heading into 1996.  But then a traffic stop changed the face of Pittsburgh Steelers history and Bam Morris’ life forever.

In late March of 1996, Bam was pulled over in a traffic stop by the Police in Texas.  Unfortunately,  Morris’ car had 6 lbs. of marijuana in it as well as 1.5 grams of cocaine!  With that one idiot move, Bam’s bright future in Pittsburgh came to a screeching halt.

After pleading guilty to a lesser charge of felony possession of marijuana, Morris was cut before the 1996 season started, and the Steelers were in need of a “Power Back” to fill Bam’s old role.  Luckily, Rich Brooks had an RB available that did exactly what the Steelers wanted to do: pound the rock.

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  • dbuzard

    I remember Mel Kiper asking what the Steelers were thinking getting in on the trade!! He thought Bettis was a malcontent and would cause headaches for Pittsburgh. He was quick to caution the Steelers that this was not ‘Plan B’.

  • dbuzard

    I remember Mel Kiper asking what the Steelers were thinking getting in on the trade!! He thought Bettis was a malcontent and would cause headaches for Pittsburgh. He was quick to caution the Steelers that this was not ‘Plan B’.

  • DomDiTolla

    @dbuzard I totally remember the questioning of this trade. I guess what Kiper and the rest of the his detractors didn’t realize is that Bettis was a malcontent because of the fact that the St. Louis Coaching Staff and Front Office weren’t behind him in 1995, took away his playing time that season, and had no intentions of supporting him through ’96 as well (i.e. moving him to FB). Literally every player (especially one with Bettis’ talent) placed in that situation (especially with a mediocre to terrible team) would be a malcontent, so for them to actually buy into Brooks’ view was bad judgement on their part.

    Looking back, I think the part that most don’t fully appreciate about the Bettis trade is that Donahoe & Co. did all their homework on Bettis as a person and the situation as a whole, realized Jerome wasn’t a head-case and just wanted to play and have a fresh start, and then finally pulled the trigger on a deal that was extremely favorable to the Steelers. Kudos must go to the Steelers Front Office for ignoring the popular rumors espoused by Brooks, St. Louis, and others in the media that latched onto the idea that Bettis was a whiner and bad teammate.

  • dbuzard

    The Rams did the Steelers another favor deciding that Kevin Greene’s services were no longer needed.

  • DomDiTolla

    @dbuzard They sure did. Greene still had 7 seasons left in the tank after he left L.A.. Shame he only lasted 3 seasons in Pittsburgh but his production was awesome. Yet that was the nature of the Rams in the early to mid 1990′s, just a terrible organization that made terrible moves. Probably the only team worse than they were or on the same plane was Cincinnati.

  • dbuzard

    The Bengals really raised the bar!! But funny how the Rams thought Jim Everett was a viable option….

  • DomDiTolla

    @dbuzard I totally remember the questioning of this trade. I guess what Kiper and the rest of the his detractors didn’t realize is that Bettis was a malcontent because of the fact that the St. Louis Coaching Staff and Front Office weren’t behind him in 1995, took away his playing time that season, and had no intentions of supporting him through ’96 as well (i.e. moving him to FB). Literally every player (especially one with Bettis’ talent) placed in that situation (especially with a mediocre to terrible team) would be a malcontent, so for them to actually buy into Brooks’ view was bad judgement on their part.

    Looking back, I think the part that most don’t fully appreciate about the Bettis trade is that Donahoe & Co. did all their homework on Bettis as a person and the situation as a whole, realized Jerome wasn’t a head-case and just wanted to play and have a fresh start, and then finally pulled the trigger on a deal that was extremely favorable to the Steelers. Kudos must go to the Steelers Front Office for ignoring the popular rumors espoused by Brooks, St. Louis, and others in the media that latched onto the idea that Bettis was a whiner and bad teammate.

  • dbuzard

    The Rams did the Steelers another favor deciding that Kevin Greene’s services were no longer needed.

  • DomDiTolla

    @dbuzard They sure did. Greene still had 7 seasons left in the tank after he left L.A.. Shame he only lasted 3 seasons in Pittsburgh but his production was awesome. Yet that was the nature of the Rams in the early to mid 1990′s, just a terrible organization that made terrible moves. Probably the only team worse than they were or on the same plane was Cincinnati.

  • dbuzard

    The Bengals really raised the bar!! But funny how the Rams thought Jim Everett was a viable option….

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  • Kimmy

    Awesome post once again Dom! I love your history articles. Jerome was such an ideal back for the city of Pittsburgh. When I was at Pitt, I would actually get excited to ride “The Bus” bus when I was getting around Oakland LOL. I’m going to try to make it up to Canton this summer if Jerome gets inducted in this next class.

  • Kimmy

    Awesome post once again Dom! I love your history articles. Jerome was such an ideal back for the city of Pittsburgh. When I was at Pitt, I would actually get excited to ride “The Bus” bus when I was getting around Oakland LOL. I’m going to try to make it up to Canton this summer if Jerome gets inducted in this next class.

  • DomDiTolla

    @Kimmy Thanks Kim. I appreciate the kind words. That’s so cool you got to ride “The Bus” bus back in the day. I didn’t include it in the story, but since my Dad’s a Notre Dame alum we used to watch all the games when I was a kid, and it was Bettis who was my favorite player on those early 90′s teams. I’ll never forget being so excited to see him go to the Steelers.

  • DomDiTolla

    @Kimmy Thanks Kim. I appreciate the kind words. That’s so cool you got to ride “The Bus” bus back in the day. I didn’t include it in the story, but since my Dad’s a Notre Dame alum we used to watch all the games when I was a kid, and it was Bettis who was my favorite player on those early 90′s teams. I’ll never forget being so excited to see him go to the Steelers.