By Rob Rossi
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesJerome Bettis, who played for the Rams and Steelers from 1993-2005, is sixth on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 13,662 yards.
PHOENIX — The Bus' bust will be bronzed this summer.
Jerome Bettis, the NFL's sixth-leading rusher, was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. It was his fifth year of eligibility.
He did not waste time in sharing the news. Bettis called Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, talked in person with fellow all-time Steelers running back Franco Harris and reached out to Steelers Nation on Twitter.
“At no point did I ever think I had the ability to get to the Hall of Fame,” Bettis said. “There was no idea.”
Bettis is one of eight members of the 2015 Hall of Fame class. He joins modern-era inductees Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Will Shields and the late Junior Seau; senior nominee Mick Tingelhoff; and contributors Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.
Neither Tony Dungy nor Kevin Greene, both of whom have Steelers ties, made the cut despite being finalists.
An enshrinement ceremony is slated for Aug. 8, in Canton, Ohio. There, Bettis will become the 18th player whose primary contributions came with the Steelers to enter the Hall of Fame. Overall, 21 members of the Steelers family already are enshrined, but Bettis will join former teammates Rod Woodson and Dermontti Dawson as Hall of Fame Steelers who starred after the franchise's 1970s heyday.
The Steelers' current star running back, Le'Veon Bell, said he was “happy” for Bettis after accepting an award at the NFL Honors show Saturday night.
“He's been on the edge so many years in a row,” Bell said.
Bettis has emerged as one of the prominent players in the Steelers' rich history. Rooney said Bettis “really had a lot to do with” a much-anticipated fifth Super Bowl victory during the 2005 season.
Finally free of the “one for the thumb” pressure, the Steelers won the Super Bowl again in 2009 and returned to the game in '11, though Bettis retired after the Super XL victory.
Former teammate Charlie Batch said he doesn't believe the Steelers would have enjoyed a second Super run if not for Bettis' leadership rubbing off on players such as Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger.
“It wasn't something that needed to be said, but if you played with Jerome and watched him, you learned how to become a leader,” Batch said. “He carried himself the way a leader should. He put everything into it. He put our team above everything.”
Bettis said he would like to be remembered as “a team player who wanted to win at any cost.” He began each of his final two seasons as a backup and short-yardage specialist. It was over those seasons that his career yards-per-carry average dipped below 4.0.
The Steelers went 15-1 in Bettis' penultimate season. He was set to retire after a loss in the AFC title game but was persuaded to return by then-coach Bill Cowher. The next season, the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl, winning it in Bettis' hometown of Detroit.
At the time of his retirement, Bettis' 13,662 yards were the fifth most in history. His eight 1,000-yard seasons ranked eighth.
The Steelers acquired Bettis from the Los Angeles Rams after the 1995 season. He quickly won over fans because of his bruising running style that contrasted a constantly smiling face. He became known affectionately as “The Bus,” and he led the Steelers in rushing from 1996-2001 and from 2003-04.
Bettis' 50 games of 100 or more yards rushing rank first among Steelers. He is second in franchise history to Harris with 10,571 rushing yards.
Bettis said Harris “welcomed me” Saturday night.
“That was special because, when I came to Pittsburgh, I always drew that association, but I always knew I was never quite there because of all the success he had in terms of winning championships and because he was in the Hall of Fame,” Bettis said.
Like Harris, Bettis became the face for a generation of Steelers fans who longed for a championship.
Bettis' Hall of Fame wait became an annual a point of contention among fans, not to mention former teammates, coaches and team ownership.
Bettis, who maintains a part-time residence in Pittsburgh, said he always felt support from fans, many of whom still wear his No. 36 jersey.
“I do get a sense that it's something of a ‘This isn't your parents' Steelers team anymore,' ” Bettis said. “I was the guy for those younger fans. I know they wanted it for me as much as anybody did.”
Rooney said Bettis was “an all-time Steeler” even before his hall call.
“Well, that's an even more exclusive group, if you ask me,” Bettis said. “It's not easy to be a legend among the guys who have played for the Steelers.
“But the Hall of Fame puts you into the conversation with every great player ever.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/steelers/7660021-74/bettis-steelers-hall#ixzz3QaTPKnDv
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