Yeah that title is probably telling you nothing new. But after getting to meet and hang out with The Bus on Tuesday, I can confirm that he’s just as cool in real life as he was carrying the rock in Black and Gold.
I gotta start off by thanking my pals Don, Travis, Rich, Christine and a few others who helped set up the informal get-together. Bettis, who has been doing pub work for Guinness and parent company Diageo, was heading to NYC and we talked a while back about trying to hook up and do something while he was in town. Jerome is planning on going head-to-head with a fan in a contest to pour the perfect Guinness. You can enter the Guinness Pour Challenge by hitting up the website and sharing your story of stepping up to face an athletic challenge. The winner is bringing 3 friends to Dallas to try and out-pour The Bus. And he’s bringing his A-game.
So since he’d be nearby, we figured a roundtable with some Guinness and The Bus was more than appropriate. As a fan of both Guinness and Bettis, this was like the jackpot.
With the NFL season just days away, the group of us that showed up sat down to pick Jerome’s brain on a variety of topics. There were Steelers fans in myself, Cotter from OFTOT and Ryan Wilson from any number of places. We also hung with a couple other writers from Gunaxin and Fanhouse, and Bettis was fantastic in indulging our questions.
We talked basic football at first, eventually discussing the upcoming Steelers season. Jerome’s pick for starter was Leftwich until Byron got hurt. As a Dennis Dixon supporter, you’d think that I’d be willing to state the case for Dennis, but Jerome made a valid point. If you start a veteran and he struggles, you can insert the young guy (Dixon) and build his confidence as the guy that can come in and right the ship. Now if you start Dixon and he fails, you have the reverse scenario where Charlie Batch is coming in to replace, and you’re left with a young guy on the sidelines who has just had his confidence shattered. It’s a fine line when starting an inexperienced quarterback, and Bettis was aware of the fragile state of a young guy like Dixon’s psyche.
He also stressed defense. That unit struggled last year but will need to be the team rock with Roethlisberger out for the first 4 games.
After some Steelers talk, Bettis went into detail about his time with the Rams, the circumstances that brought him to Pittsburgh and how he handled the steady stream of Steelers running backs who were seemingly poised to take his job. He mentioned how it was always important to make sure there wasn’t another guy who “looked like you” on the team. During most of his time in Pittsburgh, Bettis only had to deal with other small, speedy backs who didn’t look like him, aka they couldn’t replace his style, size and productivity. That was one of the ways Willie Parker’s agent failed this offseason…the Redskins were one of the only teams offering Willie a contract but they had a guy in Clinton Portis who could do the same things Willie could, and could do the things Willie couldn’t (block, catch the ball) even better. Bettis only really had to deal with Chris Fuamatu-Ma-afala looking like him during his time in Pittsburgh, and Fu never really put it all together the way Jerome did.
But he did bring up his hurt feelings over Cowher giving the starting job to Amos Zereoue in 2003. He said it was the first time one of Cowher’s decisions regarding the running game had worked against him, and he told Amos how he was working his butt off to replace him at every practice. Not that we didn’t already know that Amos was a bit of a slacker.
Since the Rams were brought up, I decided to ask him a question that my friend TheStarterWife wanted answered. As a former Pittsburgher who lives in LA now, she wanted his thoughts on the possibility of football coming back to LA. Although he remembers his time in Pittsburgh with greater fondness than his time in LA, Bettis was open to football returning, as the residents there enjoy the game as much as anyone. But his big thing is that it had to be an expansion team…none of this nonsense about relocating one of the existing teams to the west coast. Since LA resembles NYC in that there’s a TON of transplants from other cities living there, it’d be hard to get them pumped about, as Jerome said, “the LA Browns” or something. TSW is a Steelers fan, so imagine a city filled with fans of other teams now geographically forced to endure the proximity of a possible former rival.
After a few other topics, including Joey Porter texting Bettis right before our sitdown and talking trash/challenging him to a game of golf, I wanted his opinion of today’s featured Steelers RB, Rashard Mendenhall. My big thing was that Rashard is a guy who experienced a great deal of success last year with nearly 1,200 yards on the ground. But he has the always-visible fumbling problem. I wanted to know how Bettis would approach a younger guy like Mendy about adjusting a part of his game, which has to be tough if his game has gotten him this far. Bettis agreed that “you can’t just tell a grown man what to do.” He said that since Mendenhall uses the spin move with great efficiency, he’d just talk about the basic physics of how spin moves and such pull your arms away from your body. And that’s Rashard’s thing. But by example and repetition, he’d hopefully install a healthier technique.
I’d like to thank Jerome for taking the time to meet with the few of us. It was great being able to share some Guinness and sliders with a guy I’ve watched take the field 150-some times in Black and Gold. And even though he didn’t want to name anyone that might induct him into Canton in the near future, we know he’s getting there for sure.
I suck at ending these long posts, so I can only thank Bettis, the people that brought everything together and my fellow bloggers in attendance one last time. Y’all made this unique experience memorable.