Steelers legend Jerome Bettis celebrates 51st birthday: 5 quick facts about Hall of Famer RB, known as ‘The Bus’

It’s been 16 years since Jerome Bettis retired from the podium after helping the Steelers win Super Bowl XL. Since then, the player affectionately known as “The Bus” has been inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Steelers Hall of Honor. Bettis also hosts a show in Pittsburgh, where he continues to work with his foundation.

The 10th overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, Bettis entered the league as a fullback before quickly transitioning to running back. He had an extremely rare combination of height (5-foot-11 and about 250 pounds), agility, and speed that allowed him to rush for 13,662 yards and 91 touchdowns during his 13-year career. Bettis’ physicality and energetic personality made him an instant fan favorite in Pittsburgh, where he helped the franchise win five division titles as well as the franchise’s fifth Lombardi Trophy.

To celebrate his 51st birthday, here are five quick facts about Bettis’ NFL career.

Rookie of the Year

Bettis overcame a slow start to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in the 1993 season. Bettis won the award despite only having one start in the first five weeks of the season. He got the ball rolling with a 102-yard rush against the Saints in Week 5. Bettis had six other 100-yard rushing strides this season, including a career-high 212 yards in New Orleans in Week 15. Bettis also had the longest rush of his career in the game, a 72-yard touchdown. Ironically, Bettis’ first touchdown of his career was a 29-yard run against the Steelers in Week 2.

Bettis finished the season with 1,429 yards, the second-highest total in the NFL behind Emmitt Smith, who won league and Super Bowl MVP honors that season.

Almost an oiler

The Rams agreed to trade Bettis after his third season in Los Angeles. When looking for his next team, Bettis narrowed his choices down to either the Oilers or the Steelers. The Steelers’ recent appearance at the Super Bowl was one of two factors that convinced Bettis to come to Pittsburgh.

“My agent, he had another comeback that came out in draft. His name was Eddie George,” Bettis said during a February 2021 appearance on the All Things Covered podcast. “Whatever team I picked, Eddie would go to the other team. So I had to make sure I picked the right team because I knew Eddie would go to the other team.

“My agent selfishly wanted me to go to Pittsburgh because Houston voted higher. It made sense to everyone, didn’t it? Everyone was happy when I chose Pittsburgh. Eddie eventually went to Houston and had an amazing career. He was Rookie of the Year when it came out. It all worked.”

During his freshman season in Pittsburgh, Bettis earned his second All-Pro selection after rushing for 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns. One of his great accomplishments this season was his 129-yard streak and two touchdown streaks in Pittsburgh’s 42-6 win over the Rams. Bettis rumbled for a 50-yard score that game, his longest streak as a member of the Steelers.

Best season?

Bettis may have been on his way to an MVP season in 2001 after rushing for nearly 1,100 yards in the first 11 games of the season. But an injury prematurely ended his season and his hopes of becoming the first Steelers player to win the league MVP since Terry Bradshaw. By the looks of it, Bettis’ best statistical season came in 1997, his second season with the Steelers.

In 15 games, Bettis rushed for 1,665 yards and seven touchdowns while helping the Steelers capture their fourth straight AFC Central Division title. He tallied 10 100-yard rushing performances for a second straight season; His 20 100-yard plays over a two-year period are the most in franchise history. Bettis would have broken Barry Foster’s one-season franchise record if he had played in Pittsburgh’s regular-season finale. Rather than go record-breaking, Bettis made the altruistic decision to rest on the laurels that the Steelers had already earned a playoff bye.

1,000 meter warrior

Bettis passed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in each of his first six seasons in Pittsburgh. Emmitt Smith and Curtis Martin were the only other running backs in the NFL to have as many 1,000-yard seasons during that span. The only Steelers player to start his career in Pittsburgh with six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Bettis equaled Franco Harris’ record for most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons by a Steelers running back. Of the Steelers’ 26 1,000-yard rushing campaigns, 14 were penned by either Harris or Bettis.

From Backup to Pro Bowler

At 32, Bettis began the 2004 season as a backup for Duce Staley, a free agent pickup from Philadelphia. An injury to Staley in Week 7 propelled Bettis back into the starting lineup, where he rushed for 149 yards a week later in Pittsburgh’s 27-3 win over the Eagles. It was the first of six 100-yard games for Bettis, who had a career-high 13 rushing touchdowns this season and secured the last of his six Pro Bowl selections. Bettis helped then-rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger win each of his 13 regular season starts. Roethlisberger retaliated the following season by helping Bettis retire as Super Bowl champion.

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