Rooney: Bettis needs to be in Hall of Fame

PITTSBURGH -- If former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis does not break through in his fourth attempt to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he won't be the only one who is disappointed.

"He needs to be in there," team president Art Rooney II told Steelers.com. "I can't imagine him not being part of this year's class. I'd be very disappointed if he doesn't get in this year."

Those are strong words, and what gives them added weight is that Rooney is hardly one given to bombast or hyperbole.

Indeed, he chooses his words carefully and is at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to owners who put themselves out there -- whether it is regularly chatting up reporters or taking to social media to express opinions.

Not that Bettis needs an endorsement from anybody to secure football immortality. His résumé is good enough to get him into Canton.

Bettis, who retired after the 2005 season, ranks sixth on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 13,662 yards, and he is the Steelers' all-time leader in 100-yard games with 50.

He distinguished himself with his style as a 250-pound back who pushed piles and had nifty enough feet to be classified as more than a plodder.

Then there is what can't be quantified, which is how beloved Bettis was by his teammates. Many of them wanted to win Super Bowl XL as much for The Bus as for themselves.

"He's right up there with Franco [Harris] in terms of one of the great running backs we've ever had," Rooney said of Bettis, whom the Steelers traded for in 1996. "When he came to us, he was exactly what we needed at that point and time."

It's hard to imagine Bettis not getting in the Hall of Fame this year. He is the only running back among the 15 modern-day finalists, and as many as five of those can be voted into the Hall next month. Bettis tops the list of this year's finalists.

And as Rooney said, "It's time."