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ALL-MODERN ERA: Running backs

The following is another in a series that picks a Steelers All-Modern Era Team. Players were considered based on having careers with the Steelers from 1992 until the present. The All-Modern Era team is made up of 26 players – 11 on offense, 11 on defense, and four specialists.


TODAY: Running backs
Since the merger in 1970, the Pittsburgh Steelers have rushed for more yards than any other team in the National Football League, and this commitment got two of their running backs elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Franco Harris was the man during The Renaissance, and Jerome Bettis was the man in The Modern Era.

Photos from the career of former Steelers running back and Hall of Fame finalist Jerome Bettis.

Bettis will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2015 in August, and the accomplishments to be praised that day are only part of why he was the man during his 10 seasons with the Steelers. Bettis came to the team at a time of free agency where the franchise didn't have the financial wherewithal that since has been created by Heinz Field, and yet he stayed. His rookie contract was voided after his fourth season, after just one in Pittsburgh, and there were opportunities to leave. Lucrative opportunities to leave. But he stayed. Took pay cuts, and continued to stay. Bettis was team-first through some questionable demotions and worse decisions as to the direction of the offense, and he welcomed Duce Staley and mentored Willie Parker along the way to a Super Bowl championship to complete a quest his teammates had dedicated to him.

All of that, plus the fact Bettis averaged over 1,000 yards per season with the Steelers (10,571) and scored 78 touchdowns, puts him on the All-Modern Era team, and his partner in the backfield is Le'Veon Bell.

The top photos of RB Le'Veon Bell throughout 2014 season.

It's Le'Veon Bell because there is thought given to picking players who could function as a unit if the position require that. Since there are only 11 players on offense, the running backs have to be able to function as a unit, and Le'Veon Bell could play halfback to Bettis' fullback. Bell rushed for 1,361 yards in 2014, but what turned that into first-team All-Pro recognition were his 83 catches for 854 yards. That meant Bell joined Marshall Faulk as the only players in NFL history with 1,350-plus yards rushing and 850-plus yards receiving in the same season. Picking Le'Veon Bell here might be one of those choices that spurs debate among fans, but it comes down to the belief he's going to become the Steelers' version of Marshall Faulk.

OTHERS TO CONSIDER
Starting this list chronologically is as good a way as any. BARRY FOSTER set a Steelers single-season record with 1,690 rushing yards in 1992, and he got there with a 4.3 average while scoring 11 of the offense's 28 touchdowns. But Foster ended up as a one-hit wonder because when he was at peak ability he really didn't love the game, and then it became too late.

BAM MORRIS followed Foster, but after a couple of promising seasons, he was released after pleading guilty to felony possession of marijuana in June 1996.

WILLIE PARKER had difference-making speed at the NFL level, but because he wasn't built physically to withstand the 913 carries he got from 2005-07, he got worn down and then his speed wasn't as difference-making at the NFL level. Parker had a shot to lead the NFL in rushing in 2007, but he broke his leg in the regular season's penultimate game and finished with 1,316 yards.

RASHARD MENDENHALL came to the Steelers as a first-round pick in 2008, and after spending the bulk of his rookie season on the injured reserve list, he rushed for 3,309 yards on 812 carries (4.1 average) and 29 touchdowns from 2009-11. In 2012, the Steelers found themselves with JONATHAN DWYER as their leading rusher, which is what led to the spending of a second-round pick in the following draft on Le'Veon Bell.

THURSDAY: Wide receivers

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