Pittsburgh Steelers: Could the Steelers Be Looking to Find the Next "Bus"?

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IMay 18, 2011

Who will replace "The Bus"?
Who will replace "The Bus"?Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In 1993, the Los Angeles Rams spent their first round pick, 10th overall, on a powerful running back out of Notre Dame, by the name of Jerome Bettis.

Bettis was a rare commodity. He not only had the size of a full back, but had decent speed in the open field. It was his quick feet that made him so rare, because he was able to move so well inside the tackles .

In his rookie season, Bettis rushed for 1,429 yards, earning the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. 

Though his second season was not as great as his first, Bettis still rushed for over 1,000 yards. In his third season, things went south with the Rams, and he was considering retirement.

The Rams had brought in a new Head Coach, Rich Brooks, who wanted Bettis to play more of a full back role than a running back. The result was that Bettis rushed for only 637 yards. When Bettis balked at switching his position, he and Brooks realized that it would be best if the Rams and Bettis parted ways.

The Rams, at that point, held the sixth pick in the NFL Draft and were interested in selecting Lawrence Phillips out of Nebraska. Not wanting to simply release Bettis, the Rams and Steelers made the trade.

The Rams sent Bettis, along with their third round pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for the Steelers second round pick in 1996, and their fourth round pick in 1997.

The Steelers were in need of a power back, as their incumbent starter, Bam Morris, was arrested on marijuana possession charges. Being that the Steelers were not going to make an exception for Morris, as this was his second offense, the Steelers needed that power back to compliment their style of play.

Bettis joined the Steelers, and became a legend in Pittsburgh. He earned the nick-name "The Bus", and became the greatest Steelers running back since Franco Harris.

Since Bettis retired, the Steelers have not had that power back they were so used to having. A back that can put his shoulders down, and pound forward for at least a couple yards on a 4th and short or in goal-line situations.

Willie Parker was nothing more than a scat back, while Rashard Mendenhall has the talent to be a starter in the NFL, he is not normally what the Steelers have had as their feature back.

Mendenhall has put himself in a very poor light, not only with the Steelers fans, but with the Rooney family as well. He has had fumble problems in the past, and in 2010, when it looked like his fumble issues were finally taken care of, he fumbled in the Super Bowl, on a play that ended a Steelers drive that may have given them the lead.

The Rooney family has already stated that they intend to improve the running game. Could they have a player in mind that is very similar to Bettis? Could there be a free agent that is going to be available as soon as the lockout is lifted?

Yes, Yes, and Yes.

But who could the Steelers be targeting to be their feature - power runner?

Not Cedric Benson.  Though Benson has had a couple decent seasons in Cincinnati, the Steelers know he is not going to be playing for the next 4-6 years. He is getting old, and is not going to be worth the money his agent is going to be looking for when free agency starts.

Not Reggie Bush.  Bush is no better than Parker was in his prime. Though he does have a TON of ability as a third down back, he is going to want too much money for the Steelers to even think about paying him.

Not DeAngelo Williams.  Williams did a great job playing for the Carolina Panthers, though he is more than likely headed to Miami when free agency starts. Williams is going to demand too much money.

Not Ricky Williams.  Too old. I don't care if he took years off studying to be a holistic physician. He is not big enough for the Steelers to consider for this position.

The list goes on and on of who the Steelers COULD use to finally replace Bettis, but I am going to give you a name that most Steelers fans may laugh at, while others will think, WOW, what a great idea.

Le'Ron McClain, Baltimore Ravens.

McClain is very similar to what Bettis was. At one inch taller, and five pounds heavier, McClain is almost identical to the size of Bettis.

In the Bus's years with the Rams, he averaged 265 carries. In McClain's four years with the Ravens he has a TOTAL of 314 carries.

In his one season where he was used more prominently, McClain rushed the ball 232 times, for 902 yards. Since then, he has carried the ball a TOTAL of 74 times for 265 yards.

Similar to Bettis, McClain has good speed, for a man of his size, plus quick feet between the tackles.

The Ravens want to keep McClain as a full back, just as the Rams wanted to do with Bettis. Bettis joined the Steelers and became a legend.

If McClain joins the Steelers, he would give the Rooney family the ability to not have to deal with Mendenhall, and bring back the "power" football of years past.

I am not saying that the Steelers need to run the ball more, just that having someone like McClain in the backfield will make short yardage and goal-to-go situations easier for Steelers fans to stomach.

McClain is also only 26 years old. The same age as Isaac Redman, only McClain is bigger.

What do you think Steelers fans? Should the Steelers bring in McClain? How would he do in Black and Gold?