NEW YORK - The Bus will not be going to Canton this year.
Jerome Bettis made the first cut in the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting from 15 to 10 finalists Saturday but was eliminated when the count was reduced to five.
It was the fourth consecutive year the Steelers’ all-time rushing leader made the finals but went home empty.
The seven-member Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is linebacker Derrick Brooks, offensive tackle Walter Jones, wide receiver Andre Reed, defensive end Michael Strahan, defensive back Aeneas Williams, and both seniors candidates, defensive end Claude Humphrey and punter Ray Guy.
“As disappointed as it is to not get in, I’m happy for the players who got in,” said Bettis, who had been in New York the past few days. “They all deserve to be in. So I can’t be mad, I can only hope that next year is my year.”
Eight years after he retired on top of the pro football world as Super Bowl champion in his hometown of Detroit, Bettis was the only running back on the 15-man ballot of modern-day finalists.
He is the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history with 13,662 yards in 13 seasons and remains the only one of the top 14 career rushing leaders to not be in the Hall of Fame except for two not yet eligible.
This was the fourth time Bettis was among the 15 modern-day finalists for induction and the second time in a row he reached the final 10.
Also making the final 10 for the first time but no further was linebacker Kevin Greene, who played three of his 15 seasons with the Steelers. Finalist Tony Dungy, a former Steelers player and defensive assistant coach, was eliminated in his first year of eligibility.
Youngstown, Ohio, native Edward DeBartolo Jr., former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, was eliminated on the first ballot.
Bettis retired after playing his final game a Super Bowl XL winner with the Steelers as the NFL’s fifth-leading career rusher and stands sixth today. He did it all while battling asthma, a breathing disorder which required him to take daily treatments before and in games.
Most runners his size flamed out early either because their joints could not take the extra pounding, or because they were such big targets they were hit hard and often and punished into retirement.
Bettis, who had the fourth-most rushing attempts in NFL history, produced twice as many rushing yards as any other back who weighed at least 240 pounds.
He was without doubt the most prolific heavyweight runner in pro football history over his career, but that still has not been enough to land him in the Hall of Fame.
Brooks and Jones, who had 20 Pro Bowls between them, made it in their first year of eligibility.
Brooks played outside linebacker in all 14 of his seasons with Tampa Bay (1995-2008) and was a Pro Bowler in 11 of them.
Jones played all 12 of his seasons with Seattle and made nine Pro Bowls.
Reed, who played at Kutztown University and Dieruff High School in Allentown, caught 951 passes for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns in a 16-season career that ended in 2000, 15 of them with the Buffalo Bills.
Strahan made seven Pro Bowls in 15 seasons, all with the New York Giants. He registered 141.5 career sacks and holds the NFL record with 22.5 sacks in 2001. He was in his second year of eligibility.
Williams made eight Pro Bowls over 14 seasons (1991-2004) with the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. He played cornerback and safety and had 55 career interceptions and nine touchdowns.
Humphrey played 14 seasons for the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles (1968-81), earning six Pro Bowls.
Guy is the first pure punter to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played all 14 seasons with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1973-86), making seven Pro Bowls.
Other 15 modern-day finalists who did not make it were kicker Morten Anderson, wide receiver Tim Brown, defensive end Charles Haley, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, guard Will Shields and safety John Lynch.
--Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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