Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher is pressing the case that his old running back, Jerome Bettis, deserves to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. And part of Cowher’s case is that those Steelers teams didn’t have very good quarterbacks.
Cowher, the Steelers’ coach for Bettis’s entire 10-year run in Pittsburgh, told the Post-Gazette that Bettis had a harder job than most running backs, because most running backs get more help from their teams’ passing games than Bettis ever got.
“With all due respect,” Cowher said, “for most of his career he played in an offense without a quarterback you could name.”
If you can name those quarterbacks, they’re names you’d probably rather forget if you like good offensive football. The names of Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham and Tommy Maddox don’t exactly inspire fear in opposing defenses.
“Whoever it was, any of our quarterbacks, when you played us, we were a running offense and what we accomplished with a running offense was pretty amazing,” Cowher said. “He gave us our identity. We ran what people knew we were going to run. We were a running football team. If you wanted to stop the Pittsburgh Steelers, you had to stop the run first.”
If Bettis makes the Hall of Fame, his average of 3.9 yards per carry would be tied for the lowest of any Hall of Fame running back. But Cowher does have a point: Most of those Hall of Fame running backs played with better quarterbacks than Bettis did.