Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis appeared on Fox Sports' AM 1360 with Mike Furman and Artrell Hawkins Tuesday, saying amongst other things, Hawkins - a former Bengals defensive back - did hit him late in 2000 after Bettis scored a touchdown in a 48-28 Steelers rout.
Most notably, Bettis said the termination of former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was "a mistake," and the reason why it happened is because Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn't receiving enough disciplined.
Bettis suggested the reason the Steelers got away from running the football was more due to Roethlisberger's preference as opposed to the philosophy the Steelers wanted to establish.
He went on to suggest the Steelers do not have the personnel to run the ball the way they were trying to this season - until their recent slide. He endorsed Jonathan Dwyer as the Steelers' starter, and suggested the Steelers have a decision to make on Mendenhall.
While he incorrectly proposed Dwyer is the only running back on the Steelers' roster who is under contract for next season (Dwyer is a restricted free agent in 2013, as is Isaac Redman. Both Baron Batch and Chris Rainey are under contract for 2013), his point was the Steelers need to develop one running back for the future, and clearly did not suggest Mendenhall would be that player.
So what exactly is he saying?
The Steelers are failing now, even with midseason success largely due to their defense and their ability to run the football. Suggesting the Steelers don't have the personnel to run the ball isn't a fully true statement. They ran all over Cincinnati (their Week 16 opponent), Washington (one of the league's best run defenses at the time) and the Giants. It's not a coincidence in that time they had left guard Willie Colon fully healthy and the replacement of right tackle Marcus Gilbert for rookie Mike Adams occurred during that stretch.
The Steelers averaged 4.72 yards a carry when Colon and Adams started and finished a game (five games). They averaged 3.18 yards a carry when both didn't start or left or entered the game due to injury.
Nine different offensive linemen have started across four different positions, and three of them - Maurkice Pouncey, Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster - have started in more than one position. Left tackle Max Starks is the only one to start every game at the same position.
It's been the story of the last few years for the Steelers, but the fact is the best combination they've had this season involves Colon and Adams at left guard and right tackle, respectively. Those two haven't been on the field together since Week 11.
Not coincidentally, the Steelers rushed for 134 yards and 4.96 yards a carry in that Week 11 game, a loss to Baltimore. Colon was injured in that game, and was eventually placed on the IR. It also started a streak in which the Steelers would lose four of five games and rush for 70.75 yards a game, and 3.53 yards per carry.