Bettis to play one more year

<b>PITTSBURGH -- </b> No one ever said Jerome Bettis was a bad businessman.<br><br> Sensing his days with the Steelers were over, Bettis agreed Monday to a one-year, $1 million contract without a signing bonus, but he has a chance to make another $1 million with incentives.

The deal spared the Steelers from having to cut Bettis, who was due to earn approximately $3.8 million in 2004, plus a roster bonus of $750,000. It would've been the fourth year of a six-year contract Bettis had signed with the team before the 2001 season.

The Steelers had released tight end Mark Bruener and cornerback Dewayne Washington last week and also restructured the contracts of Marvel Smith and Joey Porter. They would've likely cut Bettis had he not agreed to tear up his old contract and play what is expected to be his last season with the team.

The moves allowed the Steelers to get under the $80.5 million salary cap before March 3, the first day players work under their 2004 salaries.

Reportedly, the Steelers' top 51 players are $2.75 million under the cap. Only the 51 highest-paid players are considered for the salary cap until NFL rosters are finalized before the season begins. Bettis, who turned 32 on Feb. 16, is the NFL's sixth all-time leading rusher with 12,353 yards.

The 11-year veteran is 386 yards behind No. 5 Tony Dorsett and 906 behind No. 4 Eric Dickerson. Barry Sanders (15,269) is third behind all-time leader Emmitt Smith (17,418) and runner-up Walter Payton (16,726).

Bettis is the second-leading rusher in Steelers history with 9,262 yards since joining the team in 1996. He trails Franco Harris (11,950) by 2,688 yards.

Last season, Bettis led the Steelers in rushing with 811 yards on 246 carries (3.3 average), even though Amos Zereoue started the first six games of the season.

Bettis' most productive games were against Oakland and San Diego, in games 13 and 15, when he rushed for 106 yards and 115 yards, respectively.

It now appears as though the Steelers will dump Zereoue and his $2.2 million salary but will first attempt to trade him. That move would, in all likelihood, allow the Steelers to sign a free agent or two, as well as their draft class, which the Steelers hope includes either one of the top-ranked college backs, Steven Jackson or Kevin Jones.

Steel City Insider Top Stories