Jerome Bettis will find out later this afternoon if he'll either be enshrined to the Pro Football Hall of Fame or if he must once again wait for football immortality.
Regardless, of Bettis's Canton status, he'll forever be beloved by Steelers fans for his brusing running style, which can be summed up in a single play: a five-yard touchdown run during a 2005 game against the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field in which he broke three tackles and ran over another likely future Hall-of-Fame, Brian Urlacher.
Bettis even said as much when I spoke with him during a promotional appearance at The Meadows racetrack and casino in Nov. 2011:
"That game was a tough one because we were going into that game we were 7 and 5, maybe? We had to win out in order to get to the playoffs. At the time, [Chicago] had the number one defense in the NFL. So we knew it was going to be a tough road to hoe, but we said 'hey, we got them at home.'
"It was [snowing] pretty rough. First half, we had a tough time running the ball. Willie Parker was kind of sliding around in the mud and coach Cowher came to me in the second half and said 'hey, this is what we brought you for,' considering I'm a mudder because I kind of sink into the mud [laughs] -- Willie kind of stood on top of it.
"So it was time for me to earn my paycheck, so to speak. So I went out there in the second half, had 100 yards rushing and that play was kind of … it kind of put my whole career into one play: Physical, tough, but at the end of the day, it got the job done. I did it the way I like to do it in terms of going through somebody instead of going around somebody. Unfortunately Urlacher was the recipient."
The play was not only a microcosm of Bettis's career; the score clinched the first of four consecutive must-win games for the Steelers to avoid elimination from the postseason. The Steelers would not lose again that season, indeed taking those four regular season games and four in the postseason en route to getting "one for the thumb" -- and one for Bettis.
Read Bob Smizik's column on that play and watch it below, the first video is from the FOX broadcast of the game; the second includes Bill Hillgrove's play-by-play:
Bettis on his last game in Heinz Field:
Bettis career highlight retrospective: