Once again, former 10-year member of the Pittsburgh Steelers Jerome Bettis is a finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame considerations. One of the toughest classes in recent memory, however, could leave the man affectiontely known as "The Bus" left out of the highest honor in sports once again.
With first-ballot nominees such as Orlando Pace and Junior Seau almost no-brainer selections, voters could end up shutting Bettis out of the Hall for a fifth consecutive year. But while the top end of the ballot is loaded, the middle of the pack is pedestrian (as far as potential Hall of Famers go) meaning Bettis could finally get to Canton.
Bettis' exclusion from the Hall is certainly troubling, given eight of the top-ten rushers in NFL history are in the Hall of Fame, with only Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson not yet enshrined in Canton, although Tomlinson is a near-lock to be a first ballot selection. Bettis' 13,662 yards rank sixth in league history, and his 13-year professional career demonstrated a rare degree of longevity for an NFL running back.
For a while, it hasn't been a question if Bettis makes it to Canton, but when. Surely, frustration must be setting in, each season the hulking former running back awaits his gold jacket, only to be denied.
Pace, the anchor to the 1999-2001 Rams' greatest show on turf and one of the greatest left tackles in NFL history is probably the one member of the 15-man class that's a sure thing to make it in. Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowler likely will join Pace as a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection, while two members of the seemingly invincible mid-2000's Indianapolis Colts, coach Tony Dungy and WR Marvin Harrison, who is sixth all time in receiving yards and fifth in touchdowns, are potentially shoe-ins for Canton.
The last member of the five member class, however, leaves room for a little bit of ambiguity, as a 'lock' to make the cut doesn't seem to exist with the remaining finalists, meaning Bettis has as good of a shot as anyone to finally break into the HOF. Among remaining names are Terrell Davis, who himself had a tremedous rushing career, including an elusive 2,000 yard season with the Broncos while WR Tim Brown, considered one of the best receivers in history, like Bettis, is a multiyear finalist. Former Kansas City Chiefs G Will Shields will likely garner some strong consideration as well, as the mauling guard paved the way for several prolific rushing seasons for Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. Pace's St. Louis teammate Kurt Warner is a first time finalist with a realistic chance of making the cut, as the former league and Super Bowl MVP had a breakout to the beginning of his career (albeit relatively late, at age 28) and a strong finish, but lacked any relevance during the middle of his NFL career. Even former Steeler Kevin Greene and his 160 career sacks (third all time) have a legitimate shot to make the class.
Although there seem to be some surefire members of the 2015 class, Bettis finds himself in a position where 2015 could finally be his year to attain what has so far been so elusive: a trip to the Hall of Fame.