Sports Reference Blog

PFR: Hof Candidate – Jerome Bettis

Posted by Neil on December 13, 2011

Jerome Bettis

Jerome Abram Bettis

Position: RB
Height: 5-11    Weight: 252 lbs.

Born: February 16, 1972 in Detroit, MI
College: Notre Dame   (school history)
Drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1st round (10th overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft.

Weighted Career AV (100-95-...): 79 (386th overall since 1950)
6-time Pro Bowler & 2-time First-Team All-Pro (fine print)

Rushing Receiving
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Att Yds TD Lng Y/A Y/G A/G Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G YScm RRTD Fmb AV
1993*+ 21 RAM RB 36 16 12 294 1429 7 71 4.9 89.3 18.4 26 244 9.4 0 28 1.6 15.3 1673 7 4 12
1994* 22 RAM RB 36 16 16 319 1025 3 19 3.2 64.1 19.9 31 293 9.5 1 34 1.9 18.3 1318 4 5 8
1995 23 STL RB 36 15 13 183 637 3 41 3.5 42.5 12.2 18 106 5.9 0 19 1.2 7.1 743 3 4 4
1996*+ 24 PIT RB 36 16 12 320 1431 11 50 4.5 89.4 20.0 22 122 5.5 0 16 1.4 7.6 1553 11 7 11
1997* 25 PIT RB 36 15 15 375 1665 7 34 4.4 111.0 25.0 15 110 7.3 2 19 1.0 7.3 1775 9 6 15
1998 26 PIT RB 36 15 15 316 1185 3 42 3.8 79.0 21.1 16 90 5.6 0 26 1.1 6.0 1275 3 2 6
1999 27 PIT RB 36 16 16 299 1091 7 35 3.6 68.2 18.7 21 110 5.2 0 17 1.3 6.9 1201 7 2 9
2000 28 PIT RB 36 16 16 355 1341 8 30 3.8 83.8 22.2 13 97 7.5 0 25 0.8 6.1 1438 8 1 10
2001* 29 PIT RB 36 11 11 225 1072 4 48 4.8 97.5 20.5 8 48 6.0 0 16 0.7 4.4 1120 4 3 8
2002 30 PIT RB 36 13 11 187 666 9 41 3.6 51.2 14.4 7 57 8.1 0 15 0.5 4.4 723 9 1 5
2003 31 PIT RB 36 16 10 246 811 7 21 3.3 50.7 15.4 13 86 6.6 0 16 0.8 5.4 897 7 5 4
2004* 32 PIT RB 36 15 6 250 941 13 29 3.8 62.7 16.7 6 46 7.7 0 20 0.4 3.1 987 13 1 7
2005 33 PIT 36 12 0 110 368 9 39 3.3 30.7 9.2 4 40 10.0 0 16 0.3 3.3 408 9 0 3
Career 192 153 3479 13662 91 71 3.9 71.2 18.1 200 1449 7.2 3 34 1.0 7.5 15111 94 41 102
10 yrs PIT 145 112 2683 10571 78 50 3.9 72.9 18.5 125 806 6.4 2 26 0.9 5.6 11377 80 28 78
3 yrs RAM-STL 47 41 796 3091 13 71 3.9 65.8 16.9 75 643 8.6 1 34 1.6 13.7 3734 14 13 24
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/13/2011.
NumYrs Players whose career was of similar quality and shape
3 Robert Holmes, Don Bosseler, Marion Barber, Kevan Barlow, Howie Ferguson, Floyd Little*, Gary W. Anderson, Napoleon Kaufman, Travis Henry, Marshawn Lynch
4 Ted Brown, Lynn Chandnois, Reggie Bush, Brian Westbrook, John Riggins*, Greg Pruitt, Floyd Little*, Dickie Post, Kevin Mack, Alex Webster
5 Brian Westbrook, Frank Gore, Sam Cunningham, Neal Anderson, Delvin Williams, John Brockington, John Riggins*, Larry Csonka*, Jim Taylor*, Sherman Smith
6 John Brockington, Sherman Smith, Sam Cunningham, John Riggins*, Jim Taylor*, Neal Anderson, Delvin Williams, Chuck Muncie, Don Perkins, Larry Csonka*
7 Sam Cunningham, Don Perkins, Tony Nathan, Neal Anderson, Delvin Williams, John Riggins*, Floyd Little*, Mark van Eeghen, Earnest Byner, Larry Csonka*
8 Floyd Little*, Corey Dillon, Don Perkins, Neal Anderson, Earnest Byner, John Riggins*, Earl Campbell*, Greg Pruitt, Jim Taylor*, Ollie Matson*
9 Corey Dillon, Floyd Little*, Earnest Byner, John Riggins*, Jim Taylor*, Ollie Matson*, Ken Willard, Greg Pruitt, Don Perkins, Chuck Muncie
10 Corey Dillon, Floyd Little*, Freeman McNeil, Jim Taylor*, Earnest Byner, Ollie Matson*, Leroy Kelly*, John Riggins*, Ken Willard, John L. Williams
11 Corey Dillon, Freeman McNeil, John Riggins*, Earnest Byner, Floyd Little*, James Brooks, Jim Taylor*, Ollie Matson*, Greg Pruitt, Leroy Kelly*
12 Corey Dillon, John Riggins*, Earnest Byner, Freeman McNeil, Larry Csonka*, James Brooks, Ollie Matson*, Floyd Little*, Herschel Walker, Jim Taylor*
13 Corey Dillon, Earnest Byner, John Riggins*, Ollie Matson*, Freeman McNeil, Larry Csonka*, James Brooks, Floyd Little*, Herschel Walker, Jim Taylor*
Career Corey Dillon, Earnest Byner, Ollie Matson*, Freeman McNeil, Larry Csonka*, James Brooks, Floyd Little*, Herschel Walker, Jim Taylor*, John L. Williams
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/13/2011.

13 Responses to “PFR: Hof Candidate – Jerome Bettis”

  1. Packerfan4ver Says:

    He will go to the Hall of Fame, but I don't know about 2012 though. Jerome has the rushing yards. I the voters will pick a head coach, Wide Receiver, Defensive lineman, and an offense Offensive lineman for going into the Hall of Fame for sure without counting the 2 Senior Committee nominees. The question with the final sport goes down to Running back or Secondary.

    Three things that go against him is he was not a receiving threat at time that running backs are used for receiving and running. Even Barry Sanders was better than Jerome was for receiving. Jerome goes not have a great yards per carry average. There also is the question of much of Jerome was a product of the Steelers being a running team based the carries he had in a season.

    What Helps Jerome is the fact he is very high in career yards rushing. I3,000 yards rushing is very hard to do. The Questions goes down to if Jerome Bettis or Curtis Martin gets in first. I think Curtis Martin gets in first. He is the more complete back of the two despite only have 1 all pro selection.

  2. steve norris Says:

    "the bus" nuff said. carried the steelers offense for a decade. images of him in his last year running thru brian urlacher in his prime are everlasting. could hit the homerun or just run over you. i say yes.

  3. Charles Butler Says:

    Even though I believe that it will be a toss up between the bus and Curtis Martin I will go with the bus because he is more of a weapon at Notre Dame, Los Angeles Rams, and the Steelers at running back! He is also one of the best powerbacks in the history of the league and is 5th in rushing which means that he has the career that merits entry into Canton. I cannot say that about Curtis Martin even though he has had a solid career with the Jets and Patriots!

  4. JeremyD Says:

    He probably will go on reputation and how well liked he is, but he doesn't deserves it.

    Played a long time and compiled a lot of yards and TDs, but he was rarely an elite back except in 93 and 96. His other pro bowl years were made on name and weak competition. He was a workhorse back on a run first offense in a consistent organization behind a lot of good-to-great offensive line and his YPA considering what he was running behind some years is kind of pathetic.

    I don't know Ollie Matson well enough to comment on him, but when Bettis' first career comparables are Corey Dillon, Earnest Byner and Freeman McNeil...he's in the Hall-of-Very Good.

  5. Bill Says:

    Sometimes you have to wonder if people (no names mentioned but don't have to look to far to see) watch the NFL but how much they really know about it. For instance - a comment that Jerome Bettis was an "elite" back for only 2 seasons.

    With less than 5 minutes on this very website - evidence to contradict "opinions" is easily available. For instance, Bettis had several seasons among the league rushing leaders:
    1993: 2nd
    1996 and 1997: 3rd
    2000: 9th
    2001: 1st in league through 11 games (before groin injury sidelined him)

    To finish his career:
    2004: When he was "supposed to be washed up" he rushed for 941 yards in 6 starts en route to the Steelers 15-1 record.
    2005: Willingly embraced a reduced role, specializing in short yardage - where he excelled. His leadership and charisma are what galvanized the Steelers and gave the singleness of purpose to win the Super Bowl, despite being #6 seed.

    1000 seasons: 8
    #5 All-Time rushing: 13,662 yards
    #10 All-Time Rushing TDs: 91 (not including 3 receiving, 3 passing)

    Corey Dillon - All-Time #17 rushing, #16 All-Time is definitely worthy of Hall of Fame discussion and it’s probably not the best of ideas to refer to a Hall of Fame RB (Ollie Matson) as being in the same class when trying to establish one’s case for Bettis not being Hall of Fame worthy.

    Although it seems convenient to refer to Bettis rushing behind a very good offensive line and use his "pathetic" yards per carry against him - it is equally as convenient to ignore how Bettis was the focal point of the offense, not exactly playing with franchise QBs (the 1st 6 seasons of Bettis Steelers career - the Steelers passing offense ranked 27th, 23rd, 29th, 29th, 29th, and 21st). Defenses loaded to stop Bettis - and he still rushed for 1000 yards each of those 6 seasons - and the Steelers were 56-40 (including 4 winning seasons, 2 AFC Championship Games -- of which one was lost partially because Bettis was injured).

    One has to wonder - with the resume of Bettis, if he is not "deserving", who would be?

    As far as receptions goes - it has long been a standard practice for many teams (particularly those - but not limited to - without prolific passing offenses and heavy reliance on a RB) to not use those players in passing situations to preserve them for the year. There are exceptions of course - Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson and Edgerrin James. But the methodology that the Steelers used with Bettis was similar to how Eddie George, Shaun Alexander, Stephen Davis and Terrell Davis fit into their teams' philosophy - and a major reason why Bettis was able to play in the NFL for 13 years.

  6. James Says:

    Im surprised Bettis didnt go in first ballot. A power back with surprising speed for his size made defensive players regret trying to tackle him for years. 4th all time in rushes, 5th all time in rush yards, 5th all time in touches and 10th all time in rush tds. Slam Dunk Hall of Famer.

  7. Just Win Baby Says:

    Bill is doing great work in these threads. Agree with him again, Bettis will make it. I used to think he was a stronger candidate than I do now, but I think he will make it, just a question of which year.

  8. Xogo Says:

    I dont think of Bettis as one of the great backs of any era.

    But his numbers are worthy. And if Franco and Czonka are in, you pretty much have to put Bettis in.

  9. Chris Says:

    Bettis is going to go to the Hall of Fame, but I believe that he probably will wait one more year.

    5 players maximum make up from the non-senior candidates, and that unfortunately includes the "contributors" group of coaches/owners/commisioners/etc. that are rightful members, but are clogging up spots that could be going to players. If a spot this year goes to a "contributor" (and with Don Coryell, Bill Parcells, Eddie DeBartolo, George Young, and Ron Wolf in the crowd, along with Paul Tagliabue, there are definitely deserving possibilities), then you've got at best 4 players getting in. I understand that the whole idea of the Hall of Fame is to limit it to the alleged "best of all time" but if you're trying to compare yourself to places like Cooperstown, you could at least remember that NFL rosters twice as many players and gives quality starting time in a game to twice as many players, so could we consider, I don't know, maybe inaugurating up to twice as many players?

    Anyway, rant aside, 4-5 actual players will get in from the following group: Steve Atwater, Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Roger Craig, Terrell Davis, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Clay Matthews, Karl Mecklenburg, Andre Reed, Willie Roaf, Donnie Shell, Will Shields, Steve Tasker and Aeneas Williams. That's a tough group. I'm not sure Bettis is even the best candidate from his own franchise, or even his own team.

    Given the focus on LB among the semifinalists this year, I wonder if at least one won't be a LB/DL for sure (Haley and Kennedy would be my choice/choices)

    In Dawson, Roaf, and Shields, you have pre-eminent players at each OL positions with excellent qualifications. Dawson is a 6-time All-Pro and 2-time HOF finalist. Roaf and Shields each have more than 10 Pro-Bowl spots and multiple All-Pro selections to offer. One of them should get in (Dawson or Roaf would be the thought here)

    In the secondary, Donnie Shell surprised me since it had been a while since he got this far, but I won't question his worthiness. Aeneas Williams was a semi-finalist last year but slowed by the obvious spot held for Deion Sanders. I'm gonna tell you, though, that Steve Atwater may be the most deserving. He was a beast for a team that made multiple Super Bowls on more than just John Elway's arm, and he and Shell have been suffering a bit, I think, from something of an anti-safety bias. With the play of men like Ed Reed, Darren Sharper, Brian Dawkins, and Troy Polamalu in recent years, though, the light may be beginning to shine.

    At WR, you have Brown, Carter, and Reed, three players with at least 7 Pro Bowls, who all retired in the top 5 in receptions, and in the first two cases, in yards and TDs as well. I was sure Carter was finally going to get in last year, but it was his third straight trip as a finalist without getting in. Reed's been a finalist 4 straight years, and Brown was also a finalist last year. They might be taking votes away from each other, but that logjam has to end sometime, right?

    And then we have the RB. I am of the opinion that Craig and Davis are doomed to eventual Senior consideration because of the explosion of stat-mongering RB the 2000's brought to the table. There is no question that Martin and Bettis are the headliners. I think that a stronger case in a head-to-head between the two can be made for Martin's better yards per carry (4.01 vs. 3.93), total rushing yards (14101 vs. 13662), yards per game (89.3 vs. 71.2), receptions (484 vs. 200), total TDs (100 vs. 93) plus overall consistency (Martin's 10 straight 1000-yard seasons). Finally, please don't cite the Super Bowl argument, because otherwise Marshall Faulk wouldn't have beaten both Martin and Bettis last year, and Charles Haley would be in already, right?

    If I had a vote, it would call for some combo of Dawson/Roaf/Haley/Kennedy/Atwater/Carter/Martin and hope that a "contributor" didn't steal a spot. If Martin gets in this year, I'll be riding The Bus for a 2013 spot in Canton, where he certain does eventually belong.

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  11. sn0mm1s Says:

    He will get in but he definitely doesn't deserve it. Never led the league in anything. Was never an elite back for any period of time. Despite being huge he only scored double digit TDs twice in a season and wasn't even an average receiver and had a poor YPC. He and Martin weren't much more than compilers (although Martin can make a better case for the hall than Bettis). Here are some of the other RBs that had their careers overlap with Bettis (and Martin)

    Barry Sanders
    Emmitt Smith
    Marshall Faulk
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    Terrell Davis
    Edgerrin James
    Thurman Thomas

    All of which I would take their careers over both Bettis and Martin

    Then we have:
    Tiki Barber
    Corey Dillon
    - both extremely underrated backs who I could easily argue were better than both Martin and Bettis over the course of their careers.

    Finally we have:
    Priest Holmes
    Shaun Alexander
    Ahman Green
    Clinton Portis

    Who at their peaks were better than the two and a "what if" in Ricky Williams.

    Bettis and Martin might break into the top 10 of their era when rating careers and might be top 15-20 during their era when evaluating peaks. I don't see how that deserves a spot in the HOF.

  12. Chris Says:


    I would take several of those backs you listed over Bettis, as well as Martin, but you're talking about guys I would have in my Top 10 all-time RB (Smith, Sanders, Faulk, and Tomlinson [who I so wish could get 64 yards in his game this week and pass Bettis for 5th all-time]) so there's hardly any shame there. Bettis was a back that hung up eight 1,000-yard seasons, and whose per carry average suffers from his last 4 years (his last approximately 800 carries yielded a 3.5 average). But he was a HOF back even without those last 4 years, and he strengthened his case as an all-time stat man. Yes, I see him (and Martin, to a lesser extent) as "compilers", but any back whose all-time numbers have him near the top of the leader board can be accused of that.

    Thurman Thomas, Edgerrin James and Terrell Davis are value judgments to me. You could make a case that they were better than Bettis, but you could also make a case the other way around, for various reasons. Barber and Dillon, you're starting to reach. And with your last group, I think you're starting to lose your argument, though I guess I should be thankful you didn't mention Fred Taylor, Warrick Dunn, Jamal Lewis, Eddie George and Stephen Davis.

    At worst, I think Bettis is a Top 20 all-time back (between 16-20), and as such is worthy of serious consideration on the ballot until he is inducted. But I'd still take Martin this year over him.

  13. Sn0mm1s Says:

    I think you are seriously under rating Thomas, Edge, and Davis. Edge has more yards from scrimmage, 3 less tds, a higher YPC while playing 2 less seasons. Edge also had a similar low YPC for his last 800 carries. Edge also led the league in rushing twice, total tds and yfs. Thomas led the league in yfs for four straight years and had a much better YPC, and more career yfs. Davis might not have played long enough but there was a debate whether or not he was the best Rb in the league. No one outside of Pittsburgh would say the same about Bettis.

    Dillon put up great numbers on horrible Bengal teams and had a career year at the age of 30 when he finally got on a real team. Barber also was the only guy for years that had any success rushing for the Giants. I believe he has one of the highest YPC difference between himself and his other teammates in the history of the NFL. Barber also had some dominant seasons and games leading the league in yfs twice.

    The other guys didn't have better careers but their peaks were much better - which is what I said. Martin and Bettis didn't have anything close to the 3.5 year stretch that Holmes had, the 5 year stretch of Green, the first 4 years of Portis, or the 5 year stretch of Alexander. They both were consistently above average players that got a lot of carries but never elite or considered the best in the league buy a considerable amount of people.