If you have been following the official website of the Pittsburgh Steelers the last few weeks, you’ve obviously seen the big push they’ve been making for former running back Jerome Bettis to finally get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this week. That push has included several interviews with players already enshrined in Canton who believe that Bettis should join them this year as part of the Class of 2015.
In addition to those players who already have a bust dedicated to them, one player who spent several games of his long career attempting to tackle Bettis has now come forward with his support for the Steelers longtime running back.
“Jerome Bettis, if he isn’t in the Hall of Fame, I don’t know what the Hall of Fame is,’’ said former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who is likely to be enshrined in Canton the first year he is eligible, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Jerome played at a Hall of Fame level and his numbers speak for themselves. JB is rated on his own level, in my book.”
Lewis was drafted by the Ravens in 1996, the same year that Bettis was acquired by the Steelers via a trade with the Los Angles Rams. In the 16 regular-season games that Bettis played against the Ravens during his career, he rushed for 969 yards with five 100-yard performances. Lewis played in 12 of those games, so if he is certainly experienced enough to talk about what it’s like to play against Bettis.
“He was a physical-style running back,’’ Lewis told Bouchette. “JB, I’m telling you, he is one of the ones who made me appreciate the essence of the game because he was physical, he was physical. You had to have something on your mind to go against JB.”
If Lewis’ recommendation for Bettis to be a member of the Class of 2015 isn’t enough, Bouchette was also able to get one from former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.
“Jerome’s 13-year career, his last 10 with myself, was defined by his durability. There, every year, he played hurt. He had the unique ability to jump cut from tackle to tackle, Cowher said, according to Bouchette. “He had the best feet for a big man that I’ve ever seen. And the best closer in the game.”
Bouchette is on the 46-person Selection Committee that will convene Saturday to determine which five of the 15 modern era finalists will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in July. The other 14 modern-day finalists are defensive end/linebacker Kevin Greene, kicker Morten Anderson, receivers Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison, coaches Don Coryell, Tony Dungy and Jimmy Johnson, running back Terrell Davis, defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley, safety John Lynch, offensive linemen Orlando Pace and Will Shields, quarterback Kurt Warner and linebacker Junior Seau.
Bettis was a finalists in each of the previous four years so hopefully the fifth time is the charm for the Notre Dame product, who is still the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history with 13,622 yards. He certainly has the support from former players and coaches alike.
The year’s inductees will be announced during the NFL Honors show that airs Saturday night beginning at 9 p.m. on NBC.