Steven Jackson: The Hall of Fame Chances for an Underappreciated Running Back

Dustin HullAnalyst IDecember 22, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 9: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams on the sidelines after his touchdown run during an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 9, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

St.Louis' Steven Jackson will likely go out onto the field in Tampa this Sunday and run for a mark that few running backs can even imagine, especially in this day and age.

Just 91 yards separates Jackson from another 1,000-yard season, something that half of the league's starters may accomplish this season. But doing it once is not the challenge.

Eight seasons in a row, though? That's what Jackson is chasing, and what makes him the most underappreciated running back in the NFL.

Jackson has quietly continued to run through defenses, carrying the St.Louis Rams offense time and again on his broad shoulders, with his 6'2"-235 pound frame bruising opponents week after week.

At one time, Jackson was well publicized, but those days have seemed to fade away, replaced by the NFL's new shining favorites, like Arian Foster, Ray Rice, and Chris Johnson.

Even though Jackson has outlasted most of the running backs that came into the league around the same time he did, he's never been the premier running back of the league. In the age of Adrian Peterson, it's easy to see why.

After appearing on a few Nike and Dick's Sporting Goods commercials, it seems like the publicity of Jackson has faded away in the past few years. His production on the other hand, has held the test of time.

And now here comes 1,000 yards, once again. He may not be the Steven Jackson of 2009, but he certainly isn't giving in to the typical running back cliche', the one that states a running back quits being productive soon after he starts.

Running backs like Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes, and Larry Johnson have all had their runs in the sun as the league's darlings of the backfield while Jackson was in the league.

But where are they now? For one, they're behind Jackson on the all-time rushing list. And for another, they're also out of the league. Meanwhile, Jackson leads active rushers in career yards, and is nearing Ricky Williams on the all-time list, passing yet another far more media-superior figure.

But it seems to be just the way Jackson is, as he's passed the likes of Larry Csonka, Earl Campbell, and Terrell Davis. Another year like the ones he's had in the past, and Hall of Fame players like O.J. Simpson and John Riggans could be next.

There's no way to tell if Jackson will get that far. It's never a sure thing in this league. But just because he may be passing Hall of Famers, does it mean he himself should get a nod from Canton?

He has never made an All-Pro team, and only boasts three Pro Bowl appearances. He has never won a Super Bowl, and to make matters worse, has never been on a winning team in St.Louis.

So maybe the futile past of the Rams has affected Jackson when it comes to reaching these end-of-season teams. It's clear, though, that he is an underappreciated player who has never complained about being on a team with little talent around him.

On top of that, only four running backs in history have ever stayed with the same team their whole careers and had more yards than Jackson.

So what do we make of Steven Jackson, and how do we break down his Hall of Fame chances? There's likely never been a running back that has flew under the radar like he has.

Two more seasons over 1,000 yards puts him right up next to Marshall Faulk, one of the golden children from the Rams' "Best Show On Turf" era.

But Faulk has a pair of Super Bowl rings, seven Pro Bowl nods, and three All-Pro selections. So has Jackson been slighted? Defenses never knew what to expect from Dick Vermeil's offenses in St.Louis, but with today's Rams, it's easy to know who they're going to.

But Jackson continues to carry the load, like a Hall of Famer would. Even after another year ends in despair, Steven Jackson will gain another 1,000.

Now that's something you have to appreciate.