The Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off their third consecutive season of missing the playoffs when they entered the 2001 NFL season. After a tough loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the season opener, the Steelers would take off on a five game win streak in their path to a 13-3 season.
Part of that win streak was a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. It was a hot day in late October, and the Buccaneers chose to force the Steelers to wear their black jerseys. This decision forced Jerome Bettis, the well known asthmatic and Steelers superstar, to pay a great deal more attention to his health throughout the game.
Despite these obstacles, Bettis would rumble for a career day. We take a look at some of his biggest plays from that day with some fun replays.
*Due to technical difficulties we were not able to release this article yesterday for our weekly Throwback Thursday column, however we wanted to be sure that any Steelers fan out there who was looking forward to this feature would be able to enjoy the series this week.
Jerome Bettis scored the first touchdown of the game with him throwing one heck of a pass on the run. Bettis always drew a great deal of attention from opponents every time he was in the backfield and it even appeared that he would get the hand-off. On a play when he would get the hand-off, every defender bit hard to attack the potential run threat of "the bus" but realized too late that tight end, Jerame Tuman, was behind the defense and in perfect position for a touchdown reception.
The trick play would be one of many that offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey, would employ in his days with Pittsburgh.
Enjoy watching this throwback Steelers football moment as the offensive line completely dominates Warren Sapp and the Buccaneers defense. Alan Faneca kicks out his man on a pull to the right side of the line. Bettis explodes through the line and rumbles for 30 yards to change field position on a day which otherwise the Steelers' offense would struggle.
The biggest run of the game came earlier than the previous gif with this monster 46 yard run. People underestimate how quick Bettis was to get into his full gear and how fast he actually ran at top speed. He was not a blazer by any means, but he was not slow in his prime. This run highlights just that as he explodes through the hole and opens up a double-digit lead for Pittsburgh which would not be relinquished as they won the game.
Bettis' legacy came from big days like this
2001 would be the last time Jerome Bettis would eclipse 1,000 yards in a single season during his career, and he only had 11 games in that season to make that mark. That made for his sixth consecutive 1,000 yard season and his eighth of his first nine seasons in the NFL. Whenever the passing game was not working or the Steelers needed to grind their way to wins with an old-school offense, often the beneficiary was the man we call "the bus."
He finished this game with 143 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well as a 32 yard touchdown pass. Bettis did not deserve to wait five years to be selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame after rising to be the fifth all-time leading NFL rusher when he retired, surpassing the likes of Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett and Jim Brown. While LaDanian Tomlinson would move him back to sixth on the all-time list, he still remains in the top ten of NFL rushing yards with 13,662.