Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis is 50 years old today, so we are celebrating his big day with some of his most memorable Steelers moments.
Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Super Bowl XL
February 5, 2006
Steelers 21, Seahawks 10
Detroit rolled out the red carpet when one of their favorite sons came home for Super Bowl XL and Jerome Bettis did not disappoint. Bettis spent the week leading up to the game doing what Bettis does, receiving a key to the city, hosting a charity bowling event, and having teammates to his parent's house for dinner.
But when it came to game day, it was all business. Bettis literally led the team when during intros he enthusiastically ran out onto the field alone while linebacker Joey Porter kept teammates back for a few seconds, giving Bettis his time to shine.
"That was amazing," said Bettis. "Joey Porter told me that it was only right that you go out and you lead us out there. It is your home and you need to bring us in. I could not believe it. I was in awe. They wanted me to bring them in and I did. That was incredible. They gave me a moment that I will not forget."
And Bettis gave Steelers fans moments they will never forget. Bettis had 14 carries for 43 yards in the game, including a 12-yard run. But it was his energy, his desire that helped drive the team to victory.
After the game, while standing on the podium hoisting the coveted Lombardi Trophy, he announced his retirement in a storybook ending to an amazing career.
"I played this game to win a championship, I'm a champion," said Bettis, "and I think The Bus' last stop is here in Detroit."
"To win the Super Bowl in your hometown and retire on the podium, it's like a Hollywood script that would get thrown in the trash because you would say, that can never happen."
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Steelers vs. Chicago Bears
December 11, 2005
Steelers 21, Bears 9
Willie Parker got the start, but it was Jerome Bettis who would finish with 17 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns. And it was that second touchdown that is still talked about today and was a testament to what Bettis meant to the team.
"Enough can't be said about Jerome Bettis," said receiver Hines Ward after the game. "He epitomizes what the Steelers are all about. People think he's down and out and he comes out and has a game like he had."
With snow falling and the conditions deteriorating, the Steelers called on Bettis and he answered.
"My role is to come in and spell Willie, but this game set up for me in terms of the conditions and the field," said Bettis after the game. "I've always been known as a mudder and the field really played into my favor in terms of being able to run the ball."
No, he wasn't a starter any longer, but he was a force to be reckoned with. Just ask Brian Urlacher. In the third quarter Bettis barreled through the Bears' defense, leveling Urlacher as he tried to hold on to Bettis with no luck as he scored on a five-yard touchdown run.
"I knew it was him," said Bettis. "I was able to bang off of him and use his leverage against him. I knew it was going to be a big hit. I just tried to play off of it and keep those legs churning. He didn't let go, but I've made a living off of carrying people – that's why they call me The Bus."
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Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
October 7, 2001
Steelers 16, Bengals 7
In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, the NFL cancelled all games the following Sunday, which meant the opening of Heinz Field wouldn't take place until the Steelers hosted the Bengals.
With a backdrop of American flags waving during pregame and national pride at a peak, the Steelers knew that they had a job to do, and that was play without fear.
Jerome Bettis did just that. Bettis carried the ball 23 times for 153 yards, including a 48-yard run, and had amassed 103 yards by halftime.
"When you play the Steelers, you've got to stop him, and we didn't," said Bengals cornerback Tom Carter. "That was the best I've seen him play, and that goes back to when we were freshmen at Notre Dame."
It was a rather nondescript three-yard carry in the first quarter that provided the first great memory in Heinz Field history when Bettis eclipsed the 10,000-yard mark for his career, becoming the 14th player in NFL history to do so.
"What a milestone and what a guy," said Coach Bill Cowher. "He's a true team leader. If there's anybody that deserves the accomplishment and has done it in a non-fanfare way – he's done it. He's been so dependable and so reliable."
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Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
October 21, 2001
Raymond James Stadium
Steelers 17, Buccaneers 10
Jerome Bettis once again did what he does best, he pounded the defense with his punishing running style, and even showed his speed running past one of the fastest defenses in the league.
Bettis rushed for 143 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown run, while the offense amassed 220 rushing yards. He moved into 13th place overall in total rushing yards in the NFL that day, and recorded his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. Bettis also showed off his other talents, completing a 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jerame Tuman.
Bettis and his teammates said after the game they were motivated by some of the pregame talk by the Bucs, which inspired safety Lee Flowers to make his infamous "paper champions" comment.
"Early this week, I heard them telling us to 'Bring it on,'" said Bettis after the game. "They said their defense was going to stop our running game. I took it as a personal challenge."
Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin was Tampa's defensive coordinator then, and said he vividly remembers that game.
"That is one of the days that you remember," said Tomlin. "I remember the quality of player he was, and where he was in his career it was the first time I had an opportunity to see him in person. Sometimes reputations are one thing, but he was a guy that lived up to his reputation and then some. He ran through us in just about every way you could that day and really imposed his will on us and controlled the game. To put a little sugar on top he threw a touchdown pass."
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Career-High 1,665 Yards Rushing
It was a year to remember for Jerome Bettis, who had his best statistical season in the NFL in 1997, carrying the ball a career-high 375 times for 1,665 yards while playing in only 15 games. Bettis was rewarded at the end of the season with a Pro Bowl selection and being voted MVP by his teammates for a second-straight year.
Early in the season Coach Bill Cowher said he tried to maintain how many carries Bettis was getting to make sure he had him down the stretch, something that would be a necessity.
"He takes some hits," said Cowher early in 1997. "He's not the type of guy like Barry Sanders, who's going to get 14 yards and no one's going to touch him. Jerome's going to get 14 yards, but he's going to run over three people."
Bettis had 114 yards against Jacksonville, 137 yards in a come from behind win over Baltimore, 164 against Indianapolis and in Week 14 against the Denver Broncos carried the ball 24 times for 125 yards in a game that clinched a playoff spot for the Steelers.
"I knew it was going to be rough," said Bettis after the game. "I knew that they would come out and make a concerted effort to stop the run. I just took it upon myself to, once I got hit, not to stop my feet because we needed every single yard we could get out there."
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Steelers vs. St. Louis Rams
November 3, 1996
Three Rivers Stadium
Steelers 42, Rams 6
On the day of the NFL Draft in 1996 the Steelers did something that they weren't known for. They made a trade, acquiring former first-round draft pick Jerome Bettis from the St. Louis Rams in exchange for a second-round pick in 1996 and a fourth-round selection in 1997.
At the time, Rams' Coach Rich Brooks said, "I wanted a little more speed at the position. Jerome is an outstanding player and the Pittsburgh scheme will suit him more than my scheme will. It is a good move for Jerome."
He would find out soon how good a move it was when the two teams met that year at Three Rivers Stadium and Bettis was the star of the game.
Bettis got the team off to a fast start with two first quarter touchdowns, one from three yards out and the other breaking free for a 50-yard touchdown where he outran the secondary.
"I wanted to let them know I was a game breaker," said Bettis after the game. "There were some comments about me not being a game breaker, and I just wanted to show them that, 'Hey, I am a game breaker, and I can make things happen.' A lot of people didn't think I had the speed, so I wanted to show them a little bit."
By halftime he had amassed 110 of his 129 yards on the day, held back from more only because Steelers' Coach Bill Cowher took him out of the game with the Steelers having such a big lead.
"I was just enjoying myself out there," said Bettis. "I was rolling. There were a lot of things said about me, and I hoped I proved people wrong. I think I showed I can make a difference in a team."