For the third straight year, two former Pittsburgh Steelers will have a great shot at making the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene were among the 15 finalists announced Thursday night by the gridiron museum in Canton, Ohio. It’s Bettis’ fourth trip to the cusp of enshrinement, while Greene gets this far for the third consecutive year.
Bettis, 41, should have a better-than-average chance of donning a gold jacket in late July. The Detroit native accumulated 13,662 yards in 10 NFL seasons, seven of which were with the Steelers. Bettis became a fan favorite immediately after arriving in Pittsburgh via trade from the Rams in 1996.
While with the Steelers, the bruising Bettis racked up seven straight seasons of 1,000 or more rushing yards. His best year was 1997, in which he earned 1,665 yards on a league-high 375 carries. Bettis was named to the Pro Bowl six times and memorably finished his career with a Super Bowl title following the 2005 season.
Although Bettis averaged a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry in his NFL career, he was a devastating 250-pound battering ram who boasted surprisingly nimble feet for a man of his size. Bettis, who starred at Notre Dame in the early 1990s, stands at sixth on the NFL’s all-time rushing leaderboard and scored 94 pro touchdowns.
The 51-year-old Greene also began his NFL years with the Rams, where he racked up 72.5 sacks in eight seasons as a pass-rushing terror. He made his Steelers debut in 1993, quickly endearing himself with 35.5 sacks over three seasons, including a league-high 14 in 1994.
Greene, a native New Yorker who played his college ball at Auburn, was one of the early faces of the Steelers’ aggressive “Blitzburgh” defense. He made five Pro Bowls, two of which with Pittsburgh, and went on to star with expansion Carolina in 1996.
The 6-foot-3 Greene didn’t exactly go out quietly, as he averaged more than 10 sacks over his last four seasons. In addition to his prowess on the field, Greene was also known for his long blond hair that resembled that of a pro wrestler and added to his charisma.
See the entire list of Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists here. This year’s inductees will be announced at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1 on Fox.
Tony Dungy, who played two seasons with the Steelers in the late ’70s, is also up for induction, although his primary merits come from the coaching realm.
The 58-year-old current NBC commentator enjoyed great success in charge of the Buccaneers and Colts; in 13 seasons as a head coach, the soft-spoken Dungy compiled a .668 winning percentage, making the playoffs 11 times and winning one Super Bowl.