Steelers Legend Jerome Bettis Says He Briefly Considered Retirement Before Winning 2006 Super Bowl

Bettis talked to PEOPLE about his memories of helping the Pittsburgh Steelers win Super Bowl XL in 2006

Jerome Bettis attends the Fanatics Super Bowl Party on February 12, 2022 in Culver City, California.
Photo: JC Olivera/WireImage

Jerome Bettis says winning the 2006 Super Bowl was one of the most outstanding achievements of his life.

And it almost didn't happen.

While speaking to PEOPLE, Bettis recalled when, in his 12th season in the NFL, he told his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates that he was retiring.

"I got up in front of the team, and I was basically retired," 50-year-old Bettis recalled. "I told the coach that I was retiring. I told my teammates, and it was not a dry eye in the house because for all intents and purposes, I had retired."

"But my head coach told me, 'Take a little time. Don't make a drastic decision with your emotions in play. Just give it a little bit,' and I told him okay," he continued. "I already told the team I was retiring, and they convinced me to come back for one more year.

The following year, the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl, the first and only of Bettis' storied career.

"I'm glad they convinced me to unretire because we ended up winning the championship," he says. "Had I not come back and unretired, it would've been a tragic moment for me."

For the 2023 Super Bowl, Bettis teamed up with Planters to promote another legend — Mr. Peanut — who will be roasted by comedians in an ad that will air in the third quarter of the game.

Jerome Bettis #36 of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles and acknowledges the fans after receiving an ovation while being honored on the video scoreboard in the final home game of his career during their victory in NFL game action against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field on January 1, 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty

"I'll leave it at that," Bettis says.

When discussing his Super Bowl win, Bettis says his "most vivid memory" of winning the championship is "holding the Lombardi Trophy and giving it a big kiss."

"That was a special moment, a very special moment," he says. "[It will] never fade, never go away. I can still feel that trophy in my hand. It's special."

Bettis followed through with his retirement after winning the Super Bowl and was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

Retirement from the NFL has been a hot topic of conversation recently, with seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady announcing his second retirement from the league last week, and legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers considering his this offseason.

Bettis believes Brady likely chose the "right" time to walk away.

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"The question was how do you walk away from an iconic career, that was one of the best ever? But I know eventually, your body starts to fail you, your mind starts to fail you," he says.

He continues: "And the love is still there, but the want to go out and stay in shape and do all the things you have to do necessary to be one of the best to play, that's hard. It's hard to do it every year. I knew that it was going to come a time, and it's never a great time to walk away, but I think it's the right time."

With Rodgers, Bettis says he doesn't anticipate him opting to go to a different team.

"I think he stays in Green Bay," Bettis says. "He understands his legacy and what it means, and I think he'll consider everything. But at the end of the day, I think he wants his legacy to be one organization, have a long career, and finish it as one of the best ever to play in Green Bay."

Come Feb. 12, Bettis will be rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles over the Kansas City Chiefs, but knows it will likely be a close game.

"I think the Eagles," he says, "find a way to win it in the end."

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