Jerome Bettis, television analyst, doubts that the Steelers can repeat as Super Bowl champions because of an unsteady offense that already misses Jerome Bettis, brutish halfback.
"This is a totally different football team now than we had when we went on that run," Bettis said yesterday in an NBC conference call to promote the Miami-Steelers opener that kicks off the network's "Football Night in America" coverage Thursday.
"The question is: Are they capable of repeating? ... That remains to be seen yet. But it's not the same team. It's going to be a work in progress. It's going to be very, very difficult for them to repeat. They've got their hands full.
"They may have to rely on Ben Roethlisberger's arm a lot more than they have the prior two years. ... I'm not certain about the running game, how consistent it will be churning out the tough yards.
"Obviously, with myself not being there, that poses a question."
His retirement, Bettis said, and the lack of a Bus-like halfback could cause the Steelers to alter their style.
"Obviously ... not having that closer in there late in games, that is significant in shortening games," he said. "If they don't have that ability to shorten the game in terms of that physical runner in between the tackles, that's going to be a really big problem. Looking at the roster, you'd say Duce Staley ... would have to fill that role."
"If he makes the team," interjected fellow NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth.
"Exactly," concluded Bettis.
Tilting more toward the pass was a systemic mistake Bill Cowher's Steelers made in 2003, Bettis said.
"When they did go away from [the run], they had one of their worst years, going 6-10," he said. "I don't believe he's going to go to the extreme, but I think he's going to try to open it up a little bit more. Just because the running-back position is a different type of running back now. Willie Parker is not a pounder, 4-yards-and-cloud-of-dust kind of guy. I would hope [Cowher] wouldn't open it up as much as we did back then; that was a bad decision."
Speaking of Cowher, Bettis joked about the coach angrily telephoning him after his Aug. 13 comments on the air about the Steelers' coach potentially retiring at season's end. "He's not confiding in me about it anymore," Bettis said.
"I was just telling what I believe. We have a pretty good relationship about being able to talk through things. He told me how he felt about it. I told him how I felt about it. I don't see it as an issue.
"If I was [still] a player, it might be a problem, though."