It was January 23, 2005. The Pittsburgh Steelers had fallen short of a trip to the Super Bowl after being snuffed out by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, 41-27. As far as running back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis knew, it was the last game of an illustrious career.
By the time fresh-faced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had arrived in Pittsburgh just nine months earlier, The Bus had already been rolling for 11 seasons — an eternity for a running back, especially in a run-heavy league, and he was running on empty.
“I was done,” Bettis told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s, Ron Cook. “I was getting old. My body was starting to break down. It was difficult. I didn’t think I had another year in me.”
Roethlisberger, who took the Steelers to a record of 15-1 as a rookie, wasn’t ready to let this heartbreaking loss be Bettis’ last NFL memory. As the seconds ticked away in the AFC title game, Roethlisberger spotted a contemplative Bettis on the bench. The quarterback made his way over to him and uttered the now-famous words: “If you come back for one more season, I promise we’ll get you to the Super Bowl.”
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Roethlisberger later called it the dumbest promise he had ever made. But he followed through — and then some.
Together with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bettis and Roethlisberger would craft a storybook ending to their 2005 season. They needed four consecutive wins to make it to the playoffs — check. They needed three more wins to reach the Super Bowl — check. Then, the Steelers accomplished the improbable as the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl as the sixth seed.
Bettis’ legendary career had come full circle as he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy at Ford Field in his birthplace of Detroit, MI.
“The Bus’ last stop is here in Detroit,” Bettis announced to a crowd of 68,000 cheering football fans after the win.
Sixteen years later, Roethlisberger is now in Bettis’ shoes. Roethlisberger has a decision to make in the twilight of his career: Call it quits as the winningest quarterback in Steelers franchise history or keep on keepin’ on.
What words of advice does Pittsburgh’s Hall of Fame running back have for Roethlisberger?
“I would tell Ben to continue to play until the desire is not there anymore,” Bettis said in an exclusive interview with Heavy on Steelers. “The one thing that you don’t want to do is leave with regret. Once you retire, that’s it; it’s over. You don’t get that second opportunity.”
Bettis reflected on the moment the Steelers urged him to return for a final ride, knowing that it could’ve been him who left with regret. “I was fortunate in that the Steelers convinced me to come back for one more year when I thought I was done,” Bettis said.
“As it turns out, we won a championship. But when I walked away, that was it. Your football life has to be complete in your eyes. Nobody else can tell you when your football life is complete.”
While Bettis’ body told him to call it quits, his head and heart told him otherwise. It was a good call.
Quaker Good Call Challenge
More than 38 million people face hunger in America, including 12 million children. To help combat this, Bettis — and a couple of other familiar faces — teamed up with Quaker to tackle hunger.
Bettis, along with fellow NFL legends Saints quarterback Drew Brees and 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice are helping spread awareness through the Quaker Good Call Challenge.
Behind the belief that one small act can have a big impact on people experiencing food insecurity, Bettis invites people to use their spare change to help tackle hunger following three easy steps:
- 1.) Find an empty canister or container
- 2.) Turn your empty canister into a bank to collect spare change around your home.
- 3.) Take your change to your local Coinstar kiosk and select Feeding America for your donation.
After running through his canister of Quaker Oats, Bettis used it to collect his spare change. “I’m a big morning food person,” Bettis shared. “I eat Quaker Oats in the morning as opposed to the sugary cereal. I cut all of that out. It’s been really good for me and I’m a lot healthier now.”
The Quaker Good Call Challenge ends December 31, 2021.
To learn more about the campaign, visit Quaker’s Instagram page. To encourage others to participate in the Quaker Good Call Challenge with Bettis, Brees and Rice, post to social using #QuakerGoodCall.