No Steeler since 1946 has led the NFL in rushing, but here comes an unlikely candidate. "I don't have the breakaway speed a lot of backs have," says Barry Foster, "but I do have the speed to get chunks of yards at a time." After running for 102 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh's 21-9 win at Cincinnati on Sunday, Foster had 1,319 yards on 295 carries and a 72-yard lead over 1991 rushing king Emmitt Smith of the Cowboys in this year's race.
Foster, who on Sunday broke Franco Harris's single-season Steeler rushing record of 1,246 yards, carried the ball only 132 times in his first two seasons. He had been a wishbone fullback at Arkansas, where as a junior he averaged 5.4 yards a carry. When his mother became ill and his family fell on financial hard times as a result, he left college a year early. Pittsburgh took him in the fifth round of the '90 draft.
"I was real disappointed to go that late," says Foster. "The Browns called me in the second round and said they were going to pick me, but they passed me by." Cleveland instead chose Leroy Hoard of Michigan. Foster has nine 100-yard games this year, and Hoard has 111 yards for the season.
Although the Steelers renegotiated the final year of Foster's contract before the season started—including incentives, he'll make about $600,000 in '92—he seems to be hoping for another big raise. "It's always going to be a money thing," says Foster. "What can you do with fame? Get the team into the playoffs, try to get a Super Bowl ring and get as much money as we can. That's what we're here for."
Here are the Steelers who have finished first or second in the NFL in rushing, and how Foster's stats (through 12 games) compare with theirs.