(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
On this day in 1996, the Steelers made the best trade in franchise history when they gave up a second-round pick in 1996 and a fourth-round selection in 1997 to the Rams to acquire running back Jerome Bettis, along with a third-round pick. The trade was made during the 1996 NFL Draft.
The Rams had just drafted running back Lawrence Phillips out of Nebraska in the first round, as they felt that Bettis didn't fit their offensive scheme. Phillips ended up being a bust and only played two seasons with the Rams, while Bettis went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Steelers and rushed for 10,571 yards and 78 touchdowns in his 10 years in Pittsburgh. In total, Bettis rushed for 13,662 yards and 91 touchdowns in his career and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
Of course, it's in Pittsburgh where Bettis' career took off. Bettis rushed for over 1,000 yards in his first six seasons with the Steelers and scored 40 touchdowns on the ground. Bettis slowed down in his final four seasons, but he had more of a short-yardage role and he scored an impressive 38 rushing touchdowns during that span.
Bettis capped off his career by winning a Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit in February of 2006 when the Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL.
"I got a chance to talk to Coach (Bill) Cowher," Bettis recalled of the trade via Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. "My rookie year the Steelers came to Los Angeles and we beat up on them pretty good and I had a great day running the ball. The first thing he said to me on the phone was 'We just traded for you. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I remember you beat up on us your rookie year and I'm glad to have you.' It was great to hear and to be going somewhere they wanted me. That worked out pretty well."
Bettis rushed for 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season with the Steelers in 1996 and was named Comeback Player of the Year, while also being named to the Pro Bowl and selected as first-team All-Pro. He also torched his former team in the Rams in Week 9 by rushing for 129 yards on 19 carries (6.79 average) and two touchdowns, which led the Steelers to a 42-6 blowout win over St. Louis.
Below is a clip of Bettis' 50-yard rushing touchdown against the Rams in 1996 at Three Rivers Stadium.