The Career of Steven Jackson: Milestones That Matter


Steven Jackson was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2004 as the heir to Marshall Faulk’s throne in the Gateway City. Since then, he has battled season after season on under-performing teams, marked by the constant shuffling of head coaches, coordinators, and even the teammates around him. Few players in the current age of football can say that they have stayed with the same team throughout their entire career. Fewer players can say that have consistently produced, even when that team was doing poorly. That was what Jackson has done throughout his career, and continues to do to this day. Naturally, that means that Jackson will be approaching some milestones, some that inevitably may come with the passing of time, and some that are elite marks that have been reached by few in the long history of the NFL. Here is a look at some of those milestones…

All-Time Leading Rushers  (St. Louis Rams)

In 2010, Jackson broke Eric Dickerson’s franchising rushing record of 7,245 yards, a mark that had been held since 1987. At that point, Jackson had only been in St. Louis for six seasons. Now, Jackson is quickly approaching the 10,000 yard mark, with 9,929 yards over a 128 game career with the Rams. The St. Louis legend is also quickly approaching the franchise record for rushing touchdown, which happens to be 58, set by Marshall Faulk during his seven year career as a St. Louis Ram. Jackson is currently at 3rd on that list, with 55 career rushing touchdown, still trailing Eric Dickerson by a single score.

Nov. 25, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: St. Louis Rams running back (39) Steven Jackson runs the ball in the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

All-Time Leading Rushers (NFL History)

Jackson will inevitably hold every rushing record on the St. Louis Rams by the end of his career, and will likely hold those records into the foreseeable future, especially with the league deviating away from a “feature back” system. His place in St. Louis Rams’ history has nearly been cemented, but his mark within the history of the NFL is still being written. Jackson already ranks among some of the greats in NFL history, in terms of career production as a running back. There are currently only four active running backs in the Top 50 in a majority of “big name” rushing categories. Breaking that barrier already puts your name in the hat with some of the greatest players to ever play the position, but to be active means you can continue to climb those ranks.

With 9,929 yards, Steven Jackson is currently in the 27th spot in total rushing yards. There are only 26 players that have ever rushed for over 10,000 yards in their career, and with a 71 yard performance against the Minnesota Vikings, Jackson would join the exclusive club. Jackson needs only 80 yards to jump Ricky Williams (10,009) into the 26th spot, and 344 yards to move into the Top 25, taking Ottis Anderson’s place. Should Jackson manage to gain another 1,000 yards in his career, Jackson would fill in the 20th spot on the all-time rankings, directly behind Warrick Dunn and O.J. Simpson. Should he find a way to tack on 2,000 more yards, the St. Louis all-star would break into the Top 15, behind 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, Thurman Thomas. Every player currently in the Top 15 in career rushing yards has been enshrined in Canton, with the exception of LaDainian Tomlinson, Jerome Bettis, Edgerrin James, and Fred Taylor.  All of those players, aside from Jerome Bettis,  have yet to become eligible for Hall of Fame consideration, having retired within the last five years.

All-Time Leaders in Yards from Scrimmage (NFL History)

Anyone who has watched Steven Jackson play understands that rushing the ball is not the only facet of his game. Jackson has been a threat catching the ball out of the backfield since taking the reins from Marshall Faulk in 2005. Earlier in his career, with the constant shuffling of receivers from year to year and the inconsistency at the quarterback position, Jackson was heavily utilized in the passing game. In 2006, Jackson caught 90 passes for 806 yards, which is within the top 145th greatest single-season receptions performances in NFL history, including wide receivers and tight ends. In fact, only four “true” running backs have ever caught more passes in a single season: Larry Centers (1995, 101 catches, FB Arizona Cardinals), LaDainian Tomlinson (2003, 100 catches, RB San Diego Chargers), Roger Craig (1985, 92 catches, RB San Francisco 49ers), and Charlie Garner (2002, 91 catches, RB Oakland Raiders). If that weren’t impressive enough, Jackson also took 346 carries and racked up 1,528 yards on the ground that same year. That particular performance ranks 6th all-time in NFL history, in terms of yards from scrimmage in a single season.

Of course, Jackson couldn’t maintain such a ridiculously-high amount of receptions, but did average 43.4 catches per season from 2007 through 2011. Combining that with his rushing attempts over that same period of time, Jackson regularly amassed 324.2 offenses touches over the last five years leading up to the current 2012 season. Naturally, for a back that averages 4.2 yards per rushing attempt and 8.2 yards per reception over a nine year career, the total yards from scrimmage numbers are going to be massive. Steven Jackson currently ranks 36th all-time in YFC with 13,139 total yards, the third highest total among active players (Tony Gonzalez and Randy Moss are both within the Top 25). With the emergence of legitimacy at the wide receiver, quarterback, and back-up running back spots this season, Jackson is only averaging 80.2 yards from scrimmage per game this year. Assuming he maintains that total, he will end the season with 13,379 total career yards, moving him up four slots into the 32rd spot, directly behind Torry “Big Game” Holt, who has 13,439 career yards. Using 1,200 yards from scrimmage as a base measurement for a single season’s production, Jackson could jump within the Top 25 if he can manage to produce for another year. If Jackson can find a way to break the 15,000 yard mark by the end of his career, which is approximately 1,861 yards away at this point, he will easily slide into the Top 20 all-time.

February 5, 2011; Dallas, TX, USA; Emmitt Smith smiles during a press conference after being named into the NFL Hall of Fame class of 2011 at the Super Bowl XLV media center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Biggest Milestone of the Season

The talk of Hall of Fame players can often circulate around dominating playoff performances and Super Bowl rings. However, for those players in the discussion who finished their careers without the luxury of great talent around them on their teams, the “kicker” is often individual performances, records, and career consistency as a dominating force in the league, despite the teams record. Steven Jackson’s place in the ranks of career rushers and in yards from scrimmage will be important. However, when the HOF voters look back through Steven Jackson’s career, the main thing that they will see is consistency. Many player make their mark on history through four or five spectacular years of productivity in their primes, proceeded and followed by several years of mediocre performances. That will not be the case for Steven Jackson…

The 1,000 yard mark has only eluded Jackson one time in his nine year career, that time being his rookie season, sharing snaps with then-starter, Marshall Faulk. Since that time, he has compiled seven consecutive season with at least 1,000 yards on the ground, averaging 1,202 rushing yards during that time. After tweaking his groin in Week 2 against the Washington Redskins and, essentially, splitting carries with Daryl Richardson for a small chuck of the year, Jackson now has 836 yards this season. To reach that 1,000 mark this year, Jackson will need to average 54.6 yards per carry over the next three game. St. Louis will be taking on the Minnesota Vikings’, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’, and Seattle Seahawks’ rushing defenses in that time.

Last week, Minnesota gave up 85 yards on 13 carries to Matt Forte. Tampa Bay is the top rated rushing defense, in terms of yards allowed, but allowed the last “above average” running back they faced, Knowshon Moreno, to rack up 69 yards on the ground. In fact, the Bucs haven’t faced a Top 20 running back since Adrian Peterson in Week 8, when AP ran for 123 yards on 15 carries, gashing the defense for 8.2 yards per attempt. Seattle will likely be the most difficult challenge for Jackson, although he did hammer out 55 against the Seahawks in their last meeting in Week 4. However, aside from their “game” against the Arizona Cardinals, the ‘Hawks have allowed the primary running back to rush for at least 55 yards in each of the last four game. With Browner, and possibly Sherman, out against the Rams in Week 17, Seattle might be forced to drop their linebackers back into zone more frequently, which could open more holes for Jackson at the line of scrimmage, especially if Bradford can get the quick-pass game going early.

Prior to the 2012 season, Jackson had rushed for over 50 yards in 74% of games played, the 9th highest percentage among players since 1960 with 100+ games played. In 2012, he has surpassed 50 yards in 10 of 13 games, and passed the 54.6 yard mark in four of the last five games.

Should Jackson be able to manage the merger 55 yards per game necessary to tackle the 1,000 mark, Jackson will enter his name into history by tallying his eighth season with 1,000+ rushing yards. There are currently only nine players in the history of the NFL with at least eight seasons surpassing that milestone. Seven out of those nine are already in the Hall of Fame, and the remaining two, Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson, will inevitably gain entry in the near future. However, hitting the milestone would be even more meaningful to Jackson, with his eight coming in consecutive seasons. Only five players have ever rushed for 1,000 yards in, at least, eight consecutive seasons. Some of those other names include Hall-of-Famers, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, and Curtis Martin.