We now know the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, and it even includes a couple of former Pittsburgh Steelers players in center Dermontti Dawson and defensive back Jack Butler. Dawson was one of the 15 modern era finalist, while Butler was one of the two senior finalist that made the 2012 final cut. Of course Dawson and Butler were not the only two former Steelers that were finalist this year as running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker/defensive Kevin Greene were also included in the list of 15 modern day finalist. Neither however made the cut down to 10 this time around.
Immediately after the 2012 class was announced, the cry from Steeler Nation began that Bettis was snubbed. It was the second consecutive year that Bettis was a finalist, but it likely will not be the last. Bettis is primed for a third consecutive run towards Canton next season and he has a "good chance" of finally kicking in the door next year according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette. Bouchette stated in a tweet this evening that the good chance Bettis has next year is a result of the log jam now being broken between Bettis and former New England Patriots and New York Jets running back Curtis Martin, who was one of the 6 elected Saturday night.
Why does the opinion of Bouchette matter? Well, he is the Pittsburgh media representative that sits on the election committee that votes for players to be elected, and makes cases for the election of players that have played in Pittsburgh. If anyone would know if Bettis is close to getting in next year, it would be Bouchette.
The comment Bouchette made about the log jam being broken with Martin makes perfect sense as well. Martin is 4th all-time in career rushing yards with 14,101 and Bettis is 6th on that list with 13,662 yards. Bettis has 91 career rushing touchdowns compared to 90 for Martin, but Martin compiled all of his stats in an 11 year career as opposed to the 13 years that Bettis played. Martin also finished with 17,430 yards from scrimmage in his career compared to 15,111 yards for Bettis. In addition to those stats, Martin had 10 consecutive seasons with 1,094 or more yards rushing. Bettis only had 6 consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards or more rushing and 8 in total. The real snub would have been if Martin was kept out this year in my opinion.
The current ground rules of the selection committee state that between four and seven new members will be selected each year and you could see that it was likely going to come down to Martin or Bettis this year. Sure they could have put both in, but it seems as if there might be an unwritten rule about voting in two modern day running backs in the same class. Merely speculation on my part, but if you look back at the classes, you can see how this could be the case.
Bettis is now 1 of 3 running backs on the all-time rushing yardage list with 12,000 or more yards not in the Hall of Fame. LaDainian Tomlinson and Edgerrin James are the other two. Tomlinson is ahead of Bettis in yardage, but has yet to retire. James is more than 1,400 yards behind Bettis and only 2 seasons removed from the game. In short, Bettis is the next running back due in and I suspect that will happen this time next year. In Bouchette I trust.
In the meantime be happy for Martin, a former University of Pittsburgh player that was born in Pittsburgh. It was his time and he deserved it. Take the black and gold glasses off and you will see clearly that there was no bias towards the Steelers this year or over the last several years as it relates to the Steelers and the Hall of Fame and I am sure Bouchette would likely tell you the same thing.