For the third year in a row, former Steelers RB Jerome Bettis will be anxiously awaiting the decision of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee on Super Bowl weekend. It is the third time “The Bus” has been eligible, and also the third year in a row that Bettis has made the final cut to the round of 15. He is joined in that final round by former Steelers OLB Kevin Greene, T Larry Allen, WR Tim Brown, WR Cris Carter, DE/LB Charles Haley, Art Modell, T Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, WR Andre Reed, DT Warren Sapp, G Will Shields, DE Michael Strahan, DB Aeneas Williams, and Eddie DeBartolo Jr. For the first time, Bettis does not have to battle it out with another Hall of Fame-worthy running back from his era. In 2011, it was Marshall Faulk who stole the show, and in 2012 it was Pittsburgh native Curtis Martin who got in. This year, it looks like smooth-sailing for “The Bus”, the last of his great generation of running backs to be inducted, despite being one of the most prolific players in NFL history.
If ever there was a year that Steeler Nation needed to be reminded of the glory of days not so far past, it is now. Coming off an 8-8 season and with most of the veteran team that helped secure Super Bowl wins in both Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII either gone or on the verge of being gone, Steelers fans need a reminder of why we are so blessed to be fans of this great organization. Jerome Bettis is a shining example of everything that is right in football, and he deserves to be in Canton among the immortals. I believe this will be the year that “The Bus” makes that trip.
Jerome Bettis now sits sixth all-time in terms of rushing yards (13,662), having been passed by LaDainian Tomlinson in 2011. With Tomlinson now retired as well, the next closest active player is the Rams Steven Jackson, who has 10,135 yards rushing but is already well into the final phase of his career. “The Bus” is safe at the sixth spot, at least for the foreseeable future. All five of the players ahead of him – Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin – minus Tomlinson, who will be in once he is eligible, are now enshrined. The four below Bettis – Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Tony Dorsett, and Jim Brown – are all in the Hall, as are Franco Harris, Marcus Allen and Thurman Thomas. In terms of rushing touchdowns, Bettis sits at #10, tied with Franco Harris at 91 rushing scores. He is ahead of Martin, Dorsett, and Dickerson in that category – as well as Hall of Famers Earl Campbell and Leroy Kelly. With numbers that exceed or at least his peers, Bettis is well deserving of being in the Hall of Fame.
Bettis accomplished all of that while playing at over 255 pounds his entire career. Backs of that size do not usually have lengthy careers, let alone lengthy hall of fame-worthy careers. Bettis produced eight 1,000 yard rushing campaigns, and would have easily had nine had not been injuries that derailed his 2004 season. Toss in the fact that “The Bus” played his entire career while battling his asthma condition that on occasion forced him to breathe through an inhaler on the sideline.
The current crop of players who have a chance to be enshrined include three Wide Receivers who are still waiting for their ticket to be punched. Tim Brown, Cris Carter, and Andre Reed are all Hall-worthy players who should get in soon. Offensive linemen usually do well on the ballot, so Ogden and Shields are a possibility, with Ogden being considered a shoe in by many so-called experts. The other players nominated are on the fence, many will get in at some point and some will never get in. Bettis is the last truly “great” player of his generation that has not yet been elected. The Hall of Fame loves when a Steelers player is enshrined, as it brings thousands of fans to Canton and with it, tons of money being pumped into the local economy. This is the year for “The Bus”, and we will find out Super Bowl weekend whether or not to start making plans to head to Canton.
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