It looks like the end of an era in Pittsburgh:
Jerome Bettis had no inkling he would be demoted for the first time in his career with the Steelers after concluding a training camp he called one of his best.
“I was surprised,” Bettis said, shortly after Coach Bill Cowher announced Amos Zereoue would open the season as the Steelers’ starting halfback. “I wasn’t mad, but I was disappointed. As a competitor, all you want is for it to be a decision on the field and it wasn’t a decision on the field.” Citing a “gut feeling,” Cowher revealed his decision yesterday at a news conference as training camp concluded at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. It’s the first time Bettis was benched to start a season with the Steelers.
Bettis was their starting halfback since he joined them after a trade with St. Louis in 1996. His 11,542 yards rushing ranks 10th in NFL history and needs only 771 to surpass Jim Brown and move into sixth place.
Cowher also chose newcomer Jay Riemersma to start at tight end ahead of Mark Bruener. It will be the first time Bruener does not open the season as their starter since 1996, his second in the NFL.
For what it is worth, I thought this was the most mature response I have ever heard from an athlete who has learned he/she has been demoted:
“He just said it was a decision he came to,” Bettis said. “I’ve been on the better side of most of Coach Cowher’s gut decisions and this is the first time it has not gone in my favor. I can deal with it, having been on the better side of most of them.”
I love Jerome Bettis, but even Stevie Wonder can tell he has lost a step. I hope the front office manages to find a place for him- people outside the region probably have no idea how loved Bettis is- and I definitely hope he does not go the way of Emmitt Smith and Franco Harris and end his career elsewhere.
Speaking of Emmitt Smith, his former team, the Cowboys, is in the ‘Burgh tonight for a pre-season game. I am not exxagerating when I say I hate the Cowboys almost as much as I loathe Osama. Put it this way- if the Browns and Cowboys were in the Superbowl, I would root for injuries.