The Bus unloads excess baggage

Updated: April 28, 2003, 4:21 PM ET
By By Darrell Trimble | NFL Insider
On draft day, Steelers fans were looking to see if their team would draft a running back, thereby marking the end of the Jerome Bettis era in Pittsburgh. Coach Bill Cowher had repeatedly intoned that Bettis' fate would be tied to the team's actions during the draft. But as the smoke cleared, the Steelers selected no running backs and Bettis' toehold in the organization seemed as solid as ever.

One of the main reasons the Steelers elected not to take a running back was Bettis' offseason conditioning program. When he reported to team headquarters a week ago to be weighed, he came out on the minus side, which was a plus for him.

Some Steelers officials are concerned that Bettis' battle with the bulge was the key factor in knee and groin injuries that have caused him to miss eight games over the last two seasons, and rendered him ineffective in some of the games he played. The burden of carrying his 260-pound frame is not good on the legs, although Bettis disagrees.