Franco Harris: 'Jerome was a bruiser'

Franco Harris is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame so he gets it. He understands better than anyone what it takes for a running back to be inducted. It's not something automatic. It's not something just handed to you because you were a good football player and had some nice runs.

It's something you earn because you were a great football player. And Harris has seen enough to know, Jerome Bettis was a great football player.

Bettis is a finalist for the Hall of Fame for the fourth straight year, and Harris still wonders why he wasn't elected the last three years and thinks this year there is no reason why he shouldn't get in.

"Why he isn't in there, I have no clue. He should undoubtedly be in the Hall of Fame," said Harris. "My feeling is he should be in there already. Should he be in there this year? Absolutely. You are talking about a great football player. I am hoping that he will be able to join me in the Hall of Fame this year."

Harris watched Bettis through his Steelers career, seeing the running back become the fifth all-time rusher in the NFL at the time of his retirement, now ranked sixth overall. He saw a running back that was different than him, but one whose style he truly admired.

"Jerome was a bruiser," said Harris. "Wow, could he pound that football. He pounded and pounded. He was a great competitor, a great team player. He contributed greatly to those teams. He was one of the main reasons that those teams were successful and accomplished what they did.

"He went on to put up numbers that were incredible. It was fun to watch him pound and see what he did. We were completely different runners in our styles, but I loved to watch the way he ran. He was so effective."

Someone else who firmly believes Bettis should be in the Hall of Fame is Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin never coached Bettis, but saw plenty of film preparing to stop him as a defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Bucs when they played the Steelers in 2001.

"He was a power back that was durable. He was a power back that had great feet and agility," said Tomlin. "He was a unique athlete, a tremendous specimen. He was a guy who had a blend of talent that individually was rare but put in combination with the talents collectively he had was really legendary. I think his career represents that.

"I haven't seen anyone else like him and that is why I think he is worthy of being in the Hall of Fame. He is a big back, had great feet and did it at a high level for an extremely long time. His numbers alone merit it, but when you talk about his style of play and the tone it set for his team it was really special. Numbers tell the story, but numbers are only part of the story."

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