Thousands line up for Steelers' victory parade
PITTSBURGH -- Fittingly, The Bus went last.
After teammates soaked up the cheers onstage from an adoring black and gold-clad crowd at the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl victory parade on Tuesday, running back Jerome Bettis held the Vince Lombardi trophy high above his head and took the microphone.
"I'm so thankful for everything this city has done for me," said Bettis, who announced his retirement after the Steelers won their fifth NFL championship on Sunday.
"I'm so thankful we're able to give this city one for the thumb," he said in reference to the team's rallying cry to win a fifth championship as fans twirled their gold Terrible Towels in the air.
The burly Bettis likely shared the same stage with his teammates for the last time. And while he won the Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit, to Steeler fans he's as much a part of Pittsburgh as iron, steel and ketchup.
"I'm ecstatic," said Joe Rosso, 21, who held a handwritten "Thank you Jerome" sign above his head. "That he got to end his career in Detroit with a Super Bowl is a dream."
"Win one for the Bus" was as much a rallying cry for the Steelers as "One for the Thumb" in their march to the title. Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward, who spoke to the crowd before Bettis, lauded his teammate one more time.
"I'm going to enjoy the time I spent with Jerome," Ward said. "We're sending Jerome out on a great note."
Bettis, wearing a long, mustard-yellow parka, rode the parade route atop a convertible with the top down. His parents were at the parade, too, but rode in a pickup truck ahead of their son.
"Everyone in this organization wanted to get this one for you all," Bettis said as Steelers owner Dan Rooney and coach Bill Cowher looked on.
Bettis is retiring as the league's No. 5 career rusher, and his impact inside the Steelers' locker room was just as prominent. In recent seasons, though, he was relegated more to short-yardage or goal-line situations. He finished with 43 yards on 14 carries in the Super Bowl.
His fans were out in full force Tuesday, and Bettis jerseys were everywhere. At the end of the parade route, Rick Thomas, 36, waited in vain for Bettis to pass by and take a look at an ATV outfitted with cardboard painted yellow and made to look like a school bus, in honor of Bettis' nickname.
"Just a little tribute to the Bus," Thomas said. Nearby fans took pictures in front of the contraption, which has the phrase "The Bus is rolling home" painted on the side.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press