Q&A: Jerome Bettis

Two weeks ago, Jerome Bettis was the forgotten man in overtime against Jacksonville. But Steelers coach Bill Cowher admitted his error and gave Bettis 13 carries Sunday in Cincinnati. Bettis now has 114 yards on 34 carries (3.4) as his role in the offense continues to evolve.


Are you getting comfortable in your role?
Yeah, I've been comfortable in it, two years now.

What exactly is your role?
It's backing up, being the spot guy.

Do they have a plan for when you come in? How do they do it?
I wish I could tell you.

But, you're comfortable with it?
Yeah, I'm fine. I mean I understand games are going to work different. That's why I wasn't mad after the Jacksonville game. I was disappointed I didn't go in in that situation, because I believe I'm a situational player now. And that's fine. So when the situation arises for me to go in the game, then I would think I would go in.

That's my point. You don't really have a situation now.
I do. I do. Short yardage, goal line, tough yards.

So did they just screw up against Jacksonville?
Yeah. That's what I'm saying: That's my role. That's why I was disappointed I wasn't able to go in because that's my role. If there's no other point in the game, that's fine, but in those situations, where you need a couple tough yards, that's what I'm here for.

Bill said he made a mistake. Did he say it to you personally?
Yeah, we talked about it. We talked. But the point is: That's my role, first and foremost. So if I don't play at all, if we don't get into third-down-and-shorts and those type of situations, than hey.

My feeling is Ken Whisenhunt wanted to run that flip play with Willie Parker. He didn't get it in all game and he was determined to use it. What do you think?
But that was on third down.

Could he have been setting it up on first and second down?
No. I don't think you need to set that play up. No.

In 1995, Bam Morris and Erric Pegram rotated, but the bigger back started and he softened the defense up and it worked. Why don't they do it that way now?
You've got to understand there are two things at work here: One is I'm old, not that I think it's much of an issue; the second thing is you've got to think about the future in the sense you need a guy ready for when I'm not going to be here. So you need a guy to get the work in. I'm the safety (valve). When all else fails, guess what? ‘We can always go to him.' See what I'm saying?

Isn't that unfair to consistently be bailing people out?
No, because physically it would be hard for me to do it for 16 weeks. Realistically, it would be hard. So it's better this way because in November, December, when you need to crunch, when you've got those games where there's not going to be a whole lot of daylight, guess what? If they need me for that whole game, I can play that whole game because I'll be fresh. So I think that's more of a benefit. If you see less of me now, hopefully you'll see more of me later, possibly. But that might not be the case either, but I think that's the idea.

But still, shouldn't you have a role?
I have a role.

Shouldn't you at least know when you're going to go in?
I do.

But you entered in the second quarter last week and it wasn't short yardage.
That was just a change of pace. You can always understand that with a running back. They want to get something different going. They'll just throw you in to see what happens. So it's a change of pace. My role, though, is short yardage, late game. I can still get it done. That's not the issue. The issue is 'when can we slip him in there and see how he does?' A defense might be game-planning for Willie and so you pound Bettis in there and you see how that works. It's just a change-up and it's a good thing. It's not a bad thing. If it was a bad thing, believe me, I'd be (complaining) about it.

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