Jerome Bettis has been patient enough.
He’s a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fourth year in a row, and that’s probably two or three years longer than The Bus should have to wait.
We’ve seen the likes of Curtis Martin, Marshall Faulk and Cris Carter enter the hallowed halls of Canton during that stretch.
They have as many Super Bowl victories combined as Bettis: one.
Not that big game victories are a particularly important measure for running backs, but it’s worth noting.
Rushing yards, touchdowns and per-carry average, however, are, and Bettis compares favorably, if not better than, his compatriots.
The Bus ran for 1383 yards more than Faulk and finished 439 yards behind Martin, still good for sixth all-time.
He also ranks 10th all-time in rushing touchdowns with 91, whichs is nine behind Faulk and one more than Martin.
There’s also the fact of being the best at what he did: pound the rock in short yardage situations.
Bettis was one of the most effective goal line backs in history, even when the other team knew exactly what was coming.
My point is that we probably shouldn’t still be having this discussion.
Bettis will make the Hall of Fame eventually, but that time should be now rather than later.
He’s waited his turn behind two of the other top running backs of all time (Faulk, Martin) and two former Steelers (Jack Butler, Dermonti Dawson), who were enshrined in 2012.
This year isn’t exactly a lock for The Bus, either.
He’s up against the league’s all-time leading scorer (Morten Andersen), the greatest punter to ever live (Ray Guy), the best wide receiver of his generation (Marvin Harrison) and one of the best pass rushers to ever hit a quarterback (Michael Strahan), among others.
Layman’s terms: this is a stacked ballot no matter how you look at it.
Only seven players can be enshrined per year by the Hall of Fame, so it’s far from a sure bet.
Even against such stiff competition, Bettis deserves a bronze bust in Canton’s eerily dark room.
At it’s core level, the Hall of Fame exists to preserve the history of the game.
Most of your visit there focuses on the story of the game’s beginnings and its evolution to the modern era.
You can’t write that story without Jerome Bettis.
Remember Nov. 26, 1998?
I don’t because I was 7 years old, but the NFL does.
That’s the date of Bettis’ infamous coin toss call on Thanksgiving against the Lions in his hometown of Detroit.
The Bus called tails, Phil Luckett.
Digression aside, you can’t bring up Thanksgiving games, coin tosses or any Steelers/Lions matchup without seeing that video.
Then there’s Bettis’ rivalry with Curtis Martin.
Martin was Pittsburgh’s favorite son, a local high school star that went on to Pitt before the Jets drafted him.
Bettis was its adopted bruiser, the reincarnation of Franco Harris give or take a few (okay, 20) pounds.
They battled for rushing titles, Pro Bowl berths and, eventually, position on the all-time rushing list.
Martin may have won the war, but the whole country enjoyed watching the battle.
At the end of the day, Bettis was a Steeler through and through.
He could have suited up in that 70’s backfield with Harris and Rocky Bleier and not missed a beat.
Ben Roethlisberger convinced Bettis to come back for one more year after the 2004 AFC Championship game loss to New England.
Together they treated us to one hell of a ride.
That 2005 season cemented my love for Steeler football.
I nearly saw my father have a heart attack when Bettis fumbled against the Colts, but Roethlisberger was there to catch Nick Harper by the shoelace.
The Super Bowl that year was the first one for Pittsburgh in my sports consciousness.
It was the 40th Super Bowl, represented by the Roman numeral XL.
Either that or XL was Bettis’ t-shirt size, depending on which version of the tale you believe.
Bettis won his Lombardi in his hometown and declared, “The Bus stops here.”
No, Jerome, The Bus stops in Canton.
*main photo credit steelersgab.com*
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