"We're going home."
An odd twist to the story, sure, but such is life in the fishbowl: Don't let your tongue slip.
But the story about the short-yardage specialist and his hometown has lasted. Whether through manipulation of the media or by giddiness of the fans, the story has stood strong. The Joey Porter verbal assault on Jerramy Stevens was but a blip.
Just as Fred "The Hammer" Williamson became the sidebar to Vince Lombardi's first Super Bowl win, Porter will remain a footnote should the Steelers win one for Bettis in his final game.
"We are playing for Jerome," said Brett Keisel. "To me, he is the NFL."
"I think he could run for Mayor of Detroit," said Dan Rooney, "and probably win."
He is the Mayor; he is the NFL. He is also the back-up running back and he has taken this story and run interference for the rest of the team.
There are other storylines of course. When the Steelers and Seattle Seahawks play tonight in the Super Bowl, the Steelers will play to win one for their Bud Grant.
That will be Bill Cowher's legacy if the Steelers do not win this game. Grant coached 17 consecutive seasons with the Minnesota Vikings to establish an NFL record for tenure without winning a championship. Grant came back for another year to raise his service record to 18 years without a title. Cowher will coach the final game of his 14th season today, and he, of course, has not won a championship.
Has he considered what this game will mean to his legacy?
"It's not for me to define," he said at his last press conference before the game.
The game is big for Cowher, and in Pittsburgh it'll endure as the main storyline out of this game, even if Cowher doesn't think so.
He has another storyline in mind: He's driven to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Rooney, the 73-year-old patriarch of the Steelers.
Rooney has four rings already. So do running backs coach Dick Hoak, special personnel assistant Joe Greene, video/facilities coordinator Bob McCartney and part-time scout Bill Nunn.
Hoak, who's proud enough to wear one of his, and sometimes two, to dinner on Saturday nights, speaks for all five when he says he doesn't care about winning one for the thumb.
"I don't want to win one for the thumb. I want these guys to experience the victory," he said. "Some of these guys, some of these coaches, were on that losing Super Bowl team. I want them to see what it's like to win one."
Secondary coach Darren Perry played on the 1995 Steelers team that lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 27-17, in the Super Bowl.
"It seems like yesterday," Perry said. "When I first came back (to coach) it seemed like a long, long time ago, but it's funny when you get into a certain environment it kind of seems like you were just here. Your memories come back so quickly."
The Steelers haven't won a championship in 26 years. The fans have leaned on the four titles, and "Steeler Nation" has grown considerably in the meantime. In fact, they're commandeering the streets of Detroit at this moment.
Their numbers have been evident at every away game this season. Estimates are calling for a Ford Field crowd comprised of 80 percent Steelers fans.
"It will be great for a new generation of Steelers fans to also be able to experience it," Art Rooney II said.
Rooney II is Dan Rooney's son. He runs the day-to-day operations as team president.
"There is a whole generation of Steelers fans that have come up and not seen us get a trophy in their lifetime, including my kids," Rooney II said. "So it will probably be a bigger deal for some of those people than for some of us who were there for the last run."
"There are a number of reasons why we want to win this game," said Hines Ward. "We want to win for the city of Pittsburgh. We want to win for coach Cowher to silence all those critics who say that he can't win the big game. We want to win for Hartings and Kimo, guys who have put in 12 and 13 years in the league. I want to win for myself, my family, my hometown. We want to win it for everyone connected with the Steelers."
They're hoping to bring it all home – to Pittsburgh.