5. Running back Jerome Bettis was the closer
Browns fans saw a small dose of a running back closing out a game when D’Ernest Johnson single-handedly closed out the Denver Broncos, bless his heart. That was one great game. Jerome Bettis did that for the Steelers for 10 years.
He also had four years for some lousy Rams teams at the beginning of his career, operating behind untalented offensive lines, during which time he earned a reputation as a draft bust. That seems ridiculous in retrospect, but that is what they thought at the time. The Rams wanted to draft Lawrence Phillips, an all-time head case, so they traded Bettis and a third-round pick to the Steelers for a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick.
That was a steal. Was Art Modell the general manager of the Rams?
Bettis was a short-yardage, between-the-tackles running back. At 5-foot-11 and 251 pounds, he could play fullback and act as a sixth offensive lineman.
Sometimes on sports radio talk shows they discuss the all-time greats and question whether Bettis belongs based on his low yards-per-carry average, only 3.9 yards. That’s rather brainless.
How many quarterback sacks, not to mention injuries, were prevented because Jerome Bettis picked up the blitz? How many Browns comebacks never happened because Jerome Bettis made the first down late in the fourth quarter and the Browns never got the ball back?
The running game has to be based first and foremost on delivering in short-yardage situations. The runner who is often stuffed at the line of scrimmage but occasionally breaks off a 15-yard run isn’t really that valuable because there are wide receivers who can deliver long gains.
What the running game needs to provide is the ability to move the pile in short-yardage near the goal line. From that point of view, Bettis was a very, very valuable player, a lot like our own Nick Chubb.
In the 2018 draft, the scouts were crazy about Saquon Barkley, deservedly so. But Nick Chubb was the better runner between the tackles. Cleveland got that one right. Chubb has a chance to be even better if he can stay healthy, but if you watch Chubb you can understand that how the Steelers had the right guy in Jerome Bettis for ten years.