Talk of Fame Network
When former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher joined this week’s Talk of Fame Network radio show, we asked him to make the tough call. If, we said, he could cast a Hall-of-Fame vote, which of the top-shelf Steelers he coached — including Kevin Greene, Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Jerome Bettis — would lead his ballot?
Cowher didn’t waver.
“Jerome Bettis is the best big-man running back, to me, who played the game,” he said. “He’s done it year in and year out. The guy ran the gamut. He went from the workhorse to the closer. If he gets in, there’s a guy who gets in for all the right reason. He did it the right way.”
Bettis is among the 113 players on this year’s preliminary list for Canton and is a favorite to make it as a finalist again this year. The league’s sixth-leading rusher, Bettis narrowly missed Hall-of-Fame selection as a finalist the past four years, but there’s a feeling he should make it soon — and Cowher thinks that’s only fair.
“I know it has to be all football,” he said of the selection process, “but what other guy in today’s modern era would take less of a role? Here was a good guy who did it the right way and did it consistently.
“You can match his numbers with anybody. We built a team around him, and we complemented him with receivers. So don’t hold that against him in today’s era … He did everything you wanted him to do. He was a team player, and he was a good player. And every one of his teammates respected him. To me, he’s a no-brainer for the Hall.”
Joining Cowher this week is former quarterback Randall Cunningham, the original running quarterback. When no quarterback in the 1980s ran for 500 yards in a season, Cunningham did it every year from 1986 to 1991 when he was hurt and limited to one game. Now, he’s a pastor and, like Cowher, a Hall-of-Fame candidate.
And, like Cowher, we asked him to make a tough call. In Cunningham’s case, it had to do with his career — not the career of others. If, we said, he’d won the 1998 conference championship game and gone on to beat Denver in Super Bowl XXXIII, how does he think that might’ve changed his legacy?
“I do believe I would be in the Hall of Fame,” Cunningham answered.
Cowher and Cunningham head a lineup that includes Ron Borges making a Hall-of-Fame case for former New England receiver Stanley Morgan; Rick Gosselin measuring the 4-3 defense against the 3-4; and everyone weighing on this year’s disappointments — with New England and New Orleans at the head of the class — as well as naming their candidates for Derek Jeter-like receptions in the NFL.
That, and more, is there for your listening on this weekend’s Talk of Fame Network radio show.
Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers