Bettis: I Would Have Retired In 2004 Had We Reached Super Bowl

Jerome Bettis hepled the Steelers to a Super Bowl title after the 2005 season – and it almost never happened

The DA Show
January 29, 2019 - 11:48 am

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In 2004, the Pittsburgh Steelers – with Jerome Bettis and a rookie quarterback named Ben Roethlisberger – went 15-1 and advanced to the AFC Championship, where they lost, 41-27, to the New England Patriots.

It was the third AFC Championship loss of Bettis’ career – and afterward, he made a choice.

“I actually retired after that loss,” Bettis said on The DA Show. “I went in the next day, talked to the team, told them how much I appreciated what they did for me and how hard they played as teammates, and I was forever grateful. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And then afterwards, I told coach I was retiring. They convinced me to just take some time off. I thought about it, and after going to the Pro Bowl and everything, I decided to come back.”

Wise choice. Bettis helped Pittsburgh to a Super Bowl title the very next season. Then he rode off into the Steeler sunset.

And just think: it almost never happened.

“I literally was saying to myself, ‘Okay, I’ll never be a champion. That’s part of the deal, but I had a great run,’” Bettis recalled. “That was the way I was thinking about that terrible loss, after a 15-1 season. We were a really good football team, and to lose it again, I thought it would never happen.”

Interestingly, if the 15-1 Steelers had beaten the Patriots and advanced to the Super Bowl, Bettis would have retired.

“I would have, absolutely,” he said. “Had we gone to the Super Bowl and not won, I still would have retired. I would have at least got there. To have never ever got there with as good of teams as we had, it was disappointing.”

Bill Cowher bore the brunt of those losses. He lost in the AFC Championship four times before finally breaking through in 2005, beating the Broncos in the title game and then the Seahawks, 21-10, in Super Bowl XL.

“It wasn’t fair to him,” Bettis said of the Cowher criticism. “He had coached some great teams. He had us prepared. We were ready to go. We made the mistakes, and that’s what, at the end of the day, cost us. We didn’t play clean games. We turned the football over. We made the mental mistakes. As we learned, those are things you can’t do, especially against the Patriots. You don’t win those games in those critical moments. But what we found out is that you have to learn how to play in those games. You have to understand – and through the process of losing, you gain the knowledge of how you play in a football game of that magnitude. As it turned out, we learned through those losses.”