Bill Cowher on Jerome Bettis trade: ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’

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Allison Koehler
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Little did the Pittsburgh Steelers know when the trade with the St. Louis Rams was made for running back Jerome Bettis that it would forever change the organization’s landscape. But, in hindsight, it was one of the best trades in NFL history.

On April 20, 1996, day one of the NFL draft, the Steelers acquired Bettis from the St. Louis Rams and a third-round pick in exchange for the Steelers second-round pick and a 1997 fourth-round selection.

The Rams had just drafted running back Lawrence Phillips with the sixth overall pick. They no longer needed Bettis’ two-time, 1,000+ yard rusher services.

Bettis recalled some of the conversation with Steelers head coach Bill Cowher after the trade went down.

Courtesy of Steelers.com:

“I got a chance to talk to Coach (Bill) Cowher. 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 that wanted me. That worked out pretty well.”

10,571 of Bettis’ 13,662 career rushing yards were in the Black and Gold.

As a Steeler, Bettis was selected three times to the Pro Bowl, was an integral part of the 2006 Super Bowl win, and was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Rams’ sixth-overall selection Lawrence Phillips played for three different teams in three seasons.

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