INDIANAPOLIS -- Dermontti Dawson was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame tonight and Jerome Bettis was not. The reason: Dawson stood out because he redefined his position.
Dawson, the Steelers' center from 1989 to 2000, had a unique combination of being tough and athletic -- something that had never been seen before at that position. He was durable, playing 170 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in Steelers history. He was also agile enough to get to the outside after snapping the ball and fast enough to get downfield to block safeties.
"It’s a great honor to be elected into the Class of 2012 Hall of Fame," Dawson said. "But it caused my phone to tie. I had a hundred-plus texts and phone calls since it happened. But it’s a good day."
Dawson becomes the seventh pure center of the modern era to reach the Hall of Fame. But his impact on the position hasn't been an immediately recognized one by the Hall of Fame selectors. This was his eighth year of eligibility.
Playing center was filled with pressure for Dawson. He followed Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, and he outperformed him in many ways. Dawson was named to seven straight Pro Bowls (1992 to 1998) and was a six-time first-team All-Pro.
Before moving to center, Dawson played guard as a rookie in 1988 next to Webster at center.
"I knew I had big shoes to fill. I never would have thought I would be in this position after my career," Dawson said. "I was very blessed to play at a high level. It was just an honor to learn from Mike. A lot of things that Mike did, I tried to emulate throughout my career."
For Bettis, this is the second straight year that he failed to make the Hall of Fame. He was one of 15 modern day finalists but he didn't make the cutdown to 10 finalists. Bettis ranks sixth all time in the NFL with 13,662 yards rushing. Curtis Martin, the fourth all-time leading rusher, did get voted into the Hall of Fame.
The Steelers had a second member in the Hall of Fame Class of 2012 with defensive back Jack Butler. A senior nominee, he was a four-time Pro Bowl player in the 1950s and was named one of the 33 greatest Steelers of all-time in 2008.
Butler and Dawson increase the number of Steelers in the Hall of Fame to 22. The last time the Steelers had two players elected into the Hall of Fame in one year was 1990 (Jack Lambert and Franco Harris).