Cowher praises Bettis by knocking his quarterbacks


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.

96 responses to “Cowher praises Bettis by knocking his quarterbacks

  1. Cowher… you used tell your team not to say things like this and now you do it to the guys you kept. Cowher…. used to love you, now you are entering scumtown – where people like Ray Lewis, Bill Bellacheat, Jim Harbaugh, Jamal Lewis and Deion Sanders love.

  2. I’m amazed how much hate Bettis is getting in a lot of these threads. A lot of you saying Bettis shouldn’t get in… Would you say the same if he wasn’t a Steeler?

    A lot of people want to point to his YPC average… but Jerome Bettis was a different kind of back. No, he wasn’t a homerun hitter at the position. No, he didn’t catch many passes.

    But what he DID do, he did very well, and that was pick up 3-4 yards at a time.

    That doesn’t sound that impressive, but if a back can get you 3.5 yards on every carry, your offense will be unstoppable. You only need 10 yards every 3 plays. Yes, a back like Chris Johnson average 4.5 YPC but he gets stopped in the backfield a lot. Bettis’ greatness was his consistency.

    I saw someone say Bettis would be comparable to Mike Tolbert in today’s game which is ridiculous. If Tolbert could get 4 yards a pop, every down, he’d be a pro bowler.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you. If he doesn’t get in, I will be most disappointed. The number of times I watched as he carried, literally, three or four defenders for multiple yards amazed me. His TD # vs avg. yds reflects power more than a reporter’s written verse.

  4. I always thought stuff like this was uncalled for. These people have families, kids reading this stuff. Watching this stuff. Another reason why it pisses me off every time a coach moves on, you hear the players talking crap about them with no respect.

  5. Joe”Montana”Flacco > Every QB in Steeler history
    Coach Harbaugh > Bill Cowher
    Just the facts people, don’t get upset about facts.


  6. He’ll probably get in eventually, but he is not deserving of a spot among so many great players on the ballot this year.

  7. No way this guy should get in before others. He was an average back who happened to play for a Steelers team with a great defense. Terrell Davis has to be in before Bettis!

  8. Yeah and when those QB’s lead the team the Steelers sucked! The one year they went to the Suoer Bowl with Bettis when Rothlisberger was their QB, Bettis fumbled at the goal line against the Colts. He would have blown his team’s chances for a Super Bowl if not for a mistake by the DB who recovered the ball, he would have ran to the open field to the right the Colts win! But he inexplicably ran to the left which allowed Big Ben to make a shoe string game saving tackle. The Bus was a good player but he was never a great player. He is no where near a Hall of Fame player!

  9. That’s why when people say it’s a QB driven league and you need a QB to win…I always point to Bill Cowher. Cowher and Schottenheimer have always won without franchise QBs.

    But it does take a franchise QB to win championships. Joe Gibbs is the only exception. Although when Gibbs won his superbowls his QBs were playing at a Hall of Fame level that particular season.

  10. Barry Sanders and Gayle Sayers would be the exception to the “better quarterback” defense. But, Sanders and Sayers are the exception to most HOF questions anyway.

  11. Bettis deserves to be in the Hall if for no other reason that on first and goal from the 2 everyone on both teams and every single person watching knew that it was going to be Bettis up the middle and still, the wheels on the Bus went round and round. He wasn’t the fastest guy in the world, but when you absolutely, positively needed three yards to pick up a first down, score a touchdown, or ice the game he was as realiable as they come.

    As far as the comments about the quarterbacks, living through Tomczak, Slash, Graham and Maddox…. Let’s just say I appreciate Big Ben.

  12. Lets be real, if he didn’t play for the Steelers we aren’t having this conversation. At no point in his career was he ever considered a top 5 player at his position. How is that a HOFer?

  13. I saw someone say Bettis would be comparable to Mike Tolbert in today’s game which is ridiculous. If Tolbert could get 4 yards a pop, every down, he’d be a pro bowler.

    You do realize that Mike Tolbert just played in the Pro Bowl, right?

    Anyways, I do think he was pretty good at what he did. He was a good short yardage/goal line back. But is he more deserving than a guy like Kevin Greene? I’ve made this point before, but the “only 5 are worthy for enshrinement” rule is crap. Sometimes you get a ballot where 10 guys really should get in.

  14. If Curtis Martin is a HOFer, who is a quality individual—but was just a very good (not great) running back, then Jerome Bettis is, as well.

  15. Maybe those QB’s would have looked better if their “star” RB Bettis averaged 4-5 yards a carrry. Bettis may get it, but he’s gonna have to wait. It’s not like he was Barry Sanders or something. There are way more WR’s deserving to go in before him but are being overlooked also for some weird reason i can’t understand.

  16. Big ben saved this guys butt Big time! If ben doesnt make that tackle against indy, bettis would be known as the biggest goat in steeler history! Bumping Neil odonnell off of his #1 spot for them horrendous int’s against Dallas in the super bowl. Not to mention there would be no bettis grill in pittsburgh or the jerome bettis show on tv!

  17. Terrell Davis is in, genius. And Bettis should be in the HoF as well. He was unstoppable. Ask Brian Urlacher, as Bettis dragged him into the end zone in the snow.

  18. “If Ben doesn’t pick up that fumble against Indy are we even having this conversation?”

    You mean, “make that tackle”.

    “The hall of fame is for the ELITE. Not above average.”

    It’s not called the Hall of Elite, is it? If it was the Hall of Elite you would have to remove 80% of those already in.

  19. Jerome Bettis was never the best player at his position in any year of his career, it would be debatable as to whether he was ever one of the top 5 running backs in any given year.

    In his 13 year career he had 3 very good years, a lot of pedestrian years and then 3-4 bad years. Jerome Bettis seems like a nice guy, he had a good career and a storybook ending to his career, but in no way is he a hall of famer.

    To the one gentleman thinks 3.5 yards per carry makes an offense “unstoppable” it actually means that the team has a below average running back and they’ll be looking to replace him ASAP.

  20. Bettis was (and remains) a classy guy and should rightfully be proud of his career, but regardless of the talent of his QBs (and just ask Barry Sanders about that issue), his numbers just don’t warrant inclusion. The Steelers already have Lynn Swann in on the strength of a career that would be about equal to three good seasons for most great wideouts, they don’t another cupcake freebie. If the Hall can’t find a spot for Terrell Davis, I just can’t see a place for The Bus.

  21. People fail to realize that he is sixth all time in yards. SIXTH! If there were 5 RBs in the Hall he should be the next. The fact that there are more should make this a no brainer.

    I would say it’s harder for a player to gain 13,500+ At 3.9 yards a pop than the guy who breaks five-20 yard runs a game. I think this is Cowhers point: Bettis gained all those yard running 30 times a game against defenses who were stacking the box. Bus was tough as nails. No one could handle that workload in today’s NFL, ask AP.

  22. First, let’s get the criteria straight for the Hall of Fame:

    The best of the best should be in the Hall of Fame. Not the good players…the dominant players of an era. Period.

    So, with that said, Bettis shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. But neither should Howie Long, Chris Carter, Michael Irving and a few others.

    So since the Hall of Fame has been watered down by the guys I’ve mentioned, Bettis is as qualified as the others who are in but don’t deserve to be in.

  23. I’m a diehard Brown’s fan, but I believe Bettis should get the HOF nod. Yards per carry is a stat that doesn’t describe his ability to wear out a defense. He is a throwback and reminds me so much of Marion Motley. He also played on some really bad L.A. Rams teams early in his career.

  24. All Cowher is saying us if every player in the NFL had better teammates they’d all be HOF’ers. In other words, Jerome isn’t HOF material since he never made his QB’s better.

  25. Love the guy who says 3.5 average is unstoppable but Johnson’s 4.5 doesn’t count. Wait…. what?? It’s an average bro, you can’t count the average of one guy and completely discount the next guy. Sure you can say CJ got stopped in the backfield but someone else could say Bettis rarely ran it 4 yards. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  26. Terrell Davis was in that Shanahan system that gave 1,000 yard seasons to seemingly any nobody runningback that played for him – TD played back when his oline was allowed to target defensive player’s knees.

    Then you’ve got Elway in the line up.

    Either way – I’d rather a guy like Kevin Greene or Jerry Kramer make the hall of fame over these over-hyped runningbacks.

  27. You did not just say Michael Irving?!?! LOL

    Bettis is a great feel good story, and I personally was always a fan…

    How many times was he first team all pro? Second team? Third? Thanks…

    Also, pretty crappy of Cowher to throw former players under the Bettis’s Bus (no pun intended).

    The Steelers already have entirely too many undeserving players in..

    Trust me, i sold them steroids in the 70s and 80s, and graduated to better formulas in the 1990’s, and now only deal with HGH…

    Only player who didn’t buy from my supply?

    Terry Bradshaw!
    But he sure did buy lots of estrogen from me…

    Tired of the Steelers Stealing Hall of Fame Spots…

    Let’s create a special, “Hall of the Incredible mediocre and Overrated” that place should be loaded with Steelers and Cowher is coach!

  28. Alot of you don’t want anymore Steelers in the HOF. Sucks for you because Bettis is getting in, along with Troy, Pouncey and Big Ben.

    Cry, cry cry

    Bettis was 260+ lbs. Name another back that big who is in the top 10 yards all-time.

    Richard Huntley, Zeroue, Willie Parker and Duce Staley all took carries and yards away from the Bus, otherwise he would’ve had 15K yds and you haters would still be crying.

  29. The only way Bettis will get into Canton will he buys a ticket, he’s not HOF material.


  30. When you have to try so hard to convince others that a player should be in the hall of fame is an indication that they are not HoF worthy. Cowher’s explanation shows us why Bettus’s career yardage numbers are not Hall of Fame numbers. He played in a run first offense and gained so many yards because of his longevity, not because of greatness.

  31. Jerome Bettis is a great player which I don’t think anybody will dispute.

    The HoF isn’t about great players, it’s about the best players.

    Jerome Bettis with a ring is a great career, but it isn’t better than say Ladainian Tomlinson’s without a ring.

    Bettis is akin to a system running back the way some QB’s are called system QB’s. Bettis played on a team who’s mentality has always been tough defense and power running football. Not saying Bettis isn’t great, but when I look at the Steelers the only player deserving of making the HoF from those teams is Troy Polamalu.

  32. Bettis was a great player but I don’t think he was extraordinary. If he gets in on this basis then the same argument could be made about Joe Delaney (who drowned early in his career), Gerald Riggs or William Andrews. Great players who had ok quarterbacks but marginal defenses and in some cases limited talent at the other skilled positions.

  33. Jerome Bettis was a “big back” who was going to get you the first down and 3rd and short. Jerome Bettis was the power back who would get in the end zone on 1st and goal. Jerome Bettis ran over LBs, he didn’t break runs for 50+ yards. Jerome Bettis played professional football while dealing with severe asthma. Jerome Bettis may have averaged “only” 3.9 yards per carry, but his style of play was to get the tough yards, not the long runs. If you want to look at a stat, look at his total career rushing yards: 13,662. That’s more than Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Marcus Allen, and Franco Harris….all Hall of Famers. Sixth all-time in rushing absolutely warrants a Hall of Fame induction, no doubt.

  34. I’m not a Steelers fan or hater………however it does seem the only people really stumping for him to get in are Steelers fans. He seemed like an overall great guy and he did get over 10,000 yards rushing for his career and thats an accomplishment and I think almost all the guys who have over 10k yards are in or coming up to be eligible.

    I think for me the reason I would keep him out is the eyball test. Watching him I never saw greatness, his numbers are also a product of longevity. I wouldn’t be upset if he got in, but also wouldn’t really care if he didn’t get in either.

    The argument about his QB sucking doesn’t hold much with me, because if you look at the top 10 rushers, the only ones who had a great QB was Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk, and Faulk only had a legit QB for a few of his years, he was the 1st 2 years of Peyton I think and then had a few years with Warner. LT had ok QBs, you might rank Rivers higher or lower than me, but I wouldn’t call him great.

  35. The “longevity” argument actually helps, you haters.

    What other 260+ lasted as long? And if you say he shared carries his last 4 seasons(avg. 695yds a season) that proves that his first 9 season he dominated.

    Either way, youre bummed out with hate because you don’t want any Steelers to get in.

    Curtis martin career yard avg = 4.0yds
    Bettis = 3.9

  36. That Bettis is even in the conversation for the HOF is a travesty. No way he should make it. Terrell Davis was far more a difference maker than Bettis ever was. Bad luck shortened his career. Same thing with Gale Sayers and he never won a title. Broncos don’t win two SB’s in a row without Davis.

  37. Well Coach Cowher … none a one of those “bad” quarterbacks actually hired himself – in one way or the other, they were invited in by the Steeler organization.

    Just thought I’d bring that up …

  38. Well Coach Cowher … none a one of those “bad” quarterbacks actually hired himself – in one way or the other, they were invited in by the Steeler organization.

    Just thought I’d bring that up …

    Oh yeah … and they were coached by you and your staff …

  39. Curtis Martin = 3518 career carries 14,101
    Bettis = 3479 career carries 13662

    Martin had just 39 more carries. He’s in, and quit playing knowing his body couldn’t take the punishment.

    Queue the haters who will now say Martin shouldn’t be in just to justify the Bettis hate.

    I love it.

  40. I remember so many games where they needed that 3rd down, and you saw Bettis and knew you were good. He’d march up that field with 2-4 defenders holding on for dear life as if they were ants crawling on him. He was an institution. If he doesn’t get voted in I will be angry.

  41. Let’s be real. If Bettis had done the same exact things he did, but played for the Rams his whole career? He wouldn’t even be discussed.

  42. skiss68 says:
    Jan 28, 2014 9:33 AM

    The hall of fame is for the ELITE. Not above average.

    Which is exactly why Bettis should be in. How many of you people arguing against him actually watched him play?

  43. I think the “Bus” will make it in this year. Then he can parlay that into a network broadcasting gig.

    Oh wait…

  44. jtbsteeler says:
    Jan 28, 2014 11:00 AM

    Alot of you don’t want anymore Steelers in the HOF. Sucks for you because Bettis is getting in, along with Troy, Pouncey and Big Ben.

    Pouncey in the HOF? Wow. Way to early to say that, and the early evaluation on Pouncey is that he’s nowhere near HOF level. He isn’t as good as Jeff Hartings, let alone Dawson or Webster.

    Bettis should get in. Polamalu should get in. Aaron Smith should definitely get in, but he won’t because no one appreciates 3-4 DEs. Ward and Ben have outside shots. James Harrison and Alan Faneca might make it to the 15 person cuts, but I doubt they ever make it as finalists.

  45. Let’s talk longevity.

    Marcus Allen 16yrs in the league with 17654
    yards from scrimmage. 12k+ rushing

    Jerome Bettis 13yrs in the league with 15111 yards from scrimmage. 13,6K rushing.

    Thurman Thomas 13yrs in with 16532 yards from scrimmage. 12074 rushing

    Marcus is in. Thurman is in. Keep Steeler hating you bum haters.

  46. John Riggins is in… Keep hating Steeler haters.

    You folks will discredit every back in the top 20 just to justify keeping Bettis out. HAHAHA. The Steeler hate runs deep.

  47. Bettis deserves to be in the HOF. Most of his runs were between the tackles. I believe that Eddie George and Earl Campbell were tremendous running backs , however, injuries or wear and tear
    ended great careers. Bettis continued to play at a very high level
    for many years. He gained over a thousand yards 8 times. He was 60 yards away in one year. In his third year an idiot coach didn’t use him
    or he would have certainly gained a thousand yards. ( the same coach who then traded Bettis and drafted a future convict )
    To gain that much yardage on a team that could not pass is incredible.
    Cowher makes a very valid point. Think about it football experts. Every opposing team put eight players in the box and dared the Steelers to run and run Bettis did. You do not see big running backs
    Last as long or be effective as long . Bettis is most likely the last of the
    Big backs. We will rarely see any running backs produce over more than 5 years in the future. Bettis performed well for twice that period.

  48. I won’t argue who deserves to get in or who don’t , but 1 question I have, is with so many deserving players starting to pile up, should they consider increasing the amount of spots each year, from 5 to maybe 7 or 8? Plus, political correctness may be unintentionally playing a role in the increased number of candidates, as we are afraid to be honest & say “you’re not deserving” but instead say what many would think is “the right thing to say” for fear of being insensitive or whatever…

  49. “They still dont have a QB lol”

    Coming from a Bengal fan….

    Big Ben vs. Cincy career 15-6

    Bungle fans, the gift that keeps on giving.

  50. Great defense you say? Sort of like Andy Dalton.

    What did he do with that great defense? Bungled it away in historic fashion.

  51. So Bill Cowher picks and plays sucky QB’s, is all that he is saying, good job coach…don’t hire this guy to be your head coach…spoken like a true commentator…

  52. Its Cowher’s fault then, you kept drafting those bad QB’s and he did have a Great QB when he played Big Ben but to say thats why he deserves to get in is crazy, how about his body of work be a case for him!

  53. I wonder how Steeler fans are taking the fact that Cowher said to ESPN, last week, he had coaches whose job it was to steal signals from the opposing team. As Cowher said – “Everybody did it”. Then he said “New England just kicked our ass – that’s all”. Wonder how the Steelers faithful feel about that?

    I will tell you one thing though – you can blame Cowher for some of that game. Zeroue and Ma’Afala (however you spell it) were a tandem replacement for an injured Bettis and they were tearing it up. Just running wild. Bettis came back for that playoff game, was the starting back and did nothing.

  54. Bill Cowher: 161-99-1.
    By mentioning the QBs who Bettis worked with, Cowher just made an excellent case for his own Hall of Fame induction. From 1992 to 2006, no team, no coach won more games than the Steelers and Bill Cowher.

  55. While Cowher was 100% correct in his praise and awe of Belichick, the irrelevance of Spygate and the superiority of the Patriots, I’m not so sure about his support of Bettis but I guess he was one of his guys.

  56. Someone earlier said only elite players get into the Hall, well Bettis has the 6th most rushing yards in NFL history and to me that is Elite!

  57. How about people do their research before posting stupid comments. Anyone that thinks Bettis shouldn’t be in the HOF is pure and simple a Steeler hater. Lets look at the stats of HOF RB’s and compair the yardage and YPC

    Emmit Smith: 18,355 and 4.2 YPC

    *If Bettis had the same number of carries as Smith, he would have finished with 17,195 yards rushing or good enough for 2nd in league history

    Curtis Martin: 14,101 and 4.0 YPC

    Marcus Allen: 12,243 and 4.1 YPC

    Franco Harris: 12,120 and 4.1 YPC

    John Riggins: 11,352 and 3.9 YPC

    Jerome Bettis: 13,662 and 3.9 YPC

    so based on arguments on here since Bettis only averaged 3.9 YPC he shouldn’t be in the Hall, then so does that mean Martin, Smith, Allen, Harris and Riggins shouldn’t be in the HOF as well since they averaged at or VERY close to 4 YPC?

  58. Name another 250+ RB who had the quick feet, vision, tenacity, and who
    took the pounding that Bettis took, yet excelled, for all those years. You just can’t!
    He earned those hard-fought yards the old fashioned way, runnning between the tackles
    against stacked D’s poised to stop the run. Yet, he was hardly ever tackled behind the LOS.
    He gained those 3rd and 1s, when everyone knew he was getting the ball, and he came back
    and pounded the ball again, moving the chains, until the D was gassed.

    He wasn’t a fantasy owners’ or stats guys delite, he played hard-nosed football to win games
    for his team. Really tough physical football that numbers don’t necessarily reflect.

    Let’s not neglect the intangibles he brought to the Steelers. He was a respected leader,
    unselfish mentor, he brought swagger to the offense, fan favorite, and ‘The Bus’ was always
    good for a quote to the media.

    Bettis was a freak and as tough as they come, and he did so while battling asthma.
    There is no doubt in the mind Jerome Bettis deserves to be in the Hall amongst the greats.

  59. Jerome faced 8 in-the-box every week, and yet, hebwas the 4th or 5th most prolific runner based on yardage earned over his career at the time of his retirement – and Jerome’s yards were E-A-R-N-E-D.

    Just ask the bugs on his windshield about that.

  60. To hear him talk, Cowher must think that Bettis was a one man show.
    Someone needs to tell him that Bettis was no Eric Dickerson.

  61. Bettis is 6th ALL TIME rusher. Every other RB in the top 14 is in the HOF. Bettis suffered from asthma, he used an inhaler between plays on the sidelines. When you played the steelers back then you knew you had to stop the run. Stop the Bus.

    He ran when teams knew the steelers were running. Under cowher the steelers were 106-1-1 with a 10 point lead, because bettis closed out the game. Sure there are a lot of backs who have highlight plays, big gains, but most of them didn’t last very long, and certainly no back the size of Bettis gained the yards he did or lasted as long. For those who talk about his 3.9 avg, only 81 more yards would have given him a 4.0 and he was held out of his final game to rest up for SB run. If he played that game he also would have had his 9th 1000 yard season.

    Bettis played most of his career at 265 pounds. No back of 240 or more ever gained even HALF of his yardage. Bettis had amazing feet for a man his size. Only FIVE RBs in NFL history have more yards, and none of them are nearly as large a back as he was. Don’t judge him against RBs who were smaller faster, more agile, as a big man he has no equal. He belongs in the HOF period.

  62. The comments about Cowher are interesting. At least he admits that
    all coaches were trying to steal the other teams signals. Ask Parcells
    If while in Dallas whether they had a secret camera in a field level box!
    If you don’t believe ask Parcells he knows they and other teams did it.
    Many criticize Cowher for losing a few AFC championships . Look at
    the Patriots ….it is not as easy as fans think to win week after week .
    If you ask Belichick there are 4 to 5 critical plays during a game. Cowher seemed to Belichick to have his team always ready on those
    critical plays.
    Now as to Bettis … We will never see a player like him again. Look at the drafts . Running backs are no longer taken early. Now we see only
    One or two backs taken in the first round. Why ? Running backs cannot sustain the pounding for a whole season. To be successful teams need two or three running backs as well as a QB who can run and pass. What Bettis did was amazing and will not be accomplished again .

  63. If Bettis gets in, Corey Dillon should go before him. Dillon spent most of his career with far worse QBs on a worse team and posted a better yards/carry, yards per game and TDs per game. He also has a ring from his time with the Pats. Of course, Dillon is forgotten about because he played for the 1990’s Bengals.

  64. psousa1 says: Jan 28, 2014 1:21 PM

    I wonder how Steeler fans are taking the fact that Cowher said to ESPN, last week, he had coaches whose job it was to steal signals from the opposing team. As Cowher said – “Everybody did it”. Then he said “New England just kicked our ass – that’s all”. Wonder how the Steelers faithful feel about that?

    I will tell you one thing though – you can blame Cowher for some of that game. Zeroue and Ma’Afala (however you spell it) were a tandem replacement for an injured Bettis and they were tearing it up. Just running wild. Bettis came back for that playoff game, was the starting back and did nothing.

    All of that doesn’t even matter now, since the Stealers are now bonafide cheaters too, via their HC’s blatant and intentional interference in a play on the field.

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