After being relegated to backup duty, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was going to retire or leave the team after the 2004 season. Bettis, who had turned down an opportunity to be traded before the 2004 season, was talked into coming back by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Bill Cowher. On the latest episode of Roethlisberger’s Footbahlin podcast, the two talked about their different perspectives in coaxing Bettis to return.
“Obviously, Jerome was gonna leave. It’s funny, because there’s two totally different perspectives from you and me. Me, being a young guy, one year in, this is easy, I just played at Miami where we won and dominated, so it’s like, this is what I’m supposed to do. So I’m like, ‘Hey, Jerome, come back, we’re good, we’re gonna go win,’” Roethlisberger said.
“The role that he had, I said, ‘Listen, it’s a role,’” Cowher said. He told Bettis that Willie Parker would start, but Bettis had an important role.
“What you bring us in the second half is being a closer,” Cowher said he told Bettis. “I looked at him as being a closer late in his career. He was that great closer, you can chase Willie all you want, and then when you get tired, I’m bringing in the guy that’s going to run right over you.”
Ultimately, Bettis chose to come back and got the honor of winning the Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit. While 2005 wasn’t Bettis’ most impressive statistical season with just 368 yards, he still contributed nine rushing touchdowns in the regular season and had three more in the postseason. He was an integral part of the Steelers’ efforts in 2005 and was the closer that Cowher believed he could be, bringing the thump after teams were worn down from chasing “Fast Willie” Parker all game long.
It was a storybook ending for Bettis in Pittsburgh, going out with a ring in his hometown to cap off his legendary Steelers career. It was interesting to hear Roethlisberger say too that he believed that he could just win all the time. The Steelers went 15-1 during his rookie season after going 13-1 during his final season at Miami (OH), so he wasn’t really used to losing. Obviously, he then went on and won the Super Bowl during his second year in the league, but Pittsburgh faced adversity with a three-game losing streak during the season and needed to win out over its last four games to make the playoffs, something Roethlisberger and Cowher agreed was good for the team.
Obviously, later in his career, Roethlisberger figured out that it wasn’t so easy to win in the league, but at that moment, it seemed that way to him. Luckily, that confidence helped him talk Bettis into coming back to Pittsburgh.