April 20, 1996
Steelers acquire Jerome Bettis in draft day trade
The Steelers aren’t a team that makes a lot of trades involving players. It’s probably more accurate to say the Steelers are a team that rarely makes a trade involving players, especially in modern day history.
On April 20, 1996, during the NFL Draft, they pulled off one of the best trades in NFL history, acquiring Jerome Bettis from the St. Louis Rams, along with a third-round pick, for the Steelers second-round pick in 1996 and fourth-round selection in 1997. The Rams had just drafted running back Lawrence Phillips, who spent only two seasons with them, in the first round and felt Bettis was expendable.
The rest as they say, is history.
“I got a chance to talk to Coach (Bill) Cowher,” recalled Bettis of when the trade was made. “My rookie year the Steelers came to Los Angeles and we beat up on them pretty good and I had a great day running the ball. The first thing he said to me on the phone was ‘We just traded for you. If you can’t beat em, join em. I remember you beat up on us your rookie year and I’m glad to have you.’ It was great to hear and to be going somewhere they wanted me. That worked out pretty well.”
That it did. Bettis was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. He rushed for 10,571 yards with the Steelers, and amassed 13,662 career yards, which ranks him sixth overall in NFL history.
Not a bad trade at all.