Cowher tops unlikely success story with Corridor of Fame Nick

On the surface, Bill Cowher looked like he wasn’t ready to become the NFL head coach. Too young. Too anonymous. Too unproven.

The then 34-year-old Cowher was on the list to replace Chuck Noll after Noll’s resignation after the 1991 season, but thanks to the enthusiastic support of mentor Marty Schottenheimer, he was not quite at the top.

“We thought we needed someone older,” said Art Rooney II, the team’s vice president at the time Noll stepped down.

Still, Cowher’s behavior stuck with Rooney and his father, team chairman Dan Rooney, as they set out to find someone to take over the most successful coach in franchise history. The more the Rooneys talked to the former specialteamer, who grew up six kilometers from Three Rivers Stadium, the more convinced they were of Cowher’s combination of intelligence and charisma.

“You could tell he was someone who could command the team, have the presence to stand in front of a group of mid-twenties every day and keep their attention,” said Art Rooney, now the team president.

That was something Cowher did for 15 seasons, 170 wins, a Super Bowl title and an appearance in another. Cowher stood out from under a mustache that gave it an all-man-worker vibe, and Cowher established the Steelers as one of the league’s marquee franchises with a style as passionate as Noll’s professor.

“You know, you follow a guy like Chuck Noll, I don’t even think there’s any pressure because you’re not even close to doing what he did, in terms of … 70s what he did for them City of Pittsburgh has done and rejuvenated this whole city, ”Cowher said.

Maybe, but Cowher was pretty close. And 15 years after his retirement, Cowher will follow in Noll’s footsteps again when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month.

Not bad for a former linebacker who spent his brief four-year NFL career in the early 1980s as a special team ace who got along more cunning and innate football IQ than athletic ability.

“I had very average skills, but I knew how to do all the little things to get through,” said Cowher. “And that was my idea. I was like a teacher. I’ve always enjoyed teaching. And teaching means finding a way to get in touch with your students, and those were the players, they were the coaches, and that’s how I accepted everything. “

Schottenheimer hired Cowher as an assistant in Cleveland in 1985, and the two moved west to Kansas City in 1989. Cowher spent two years as Defensive Coordinator for the Chiefs, and as the Steelers began figuring out who would lead them into the post-Noll era, Schottenheimer gave Cowher a rousing endorsement.

“Even though he was so young, Marty felt really good that he was ready to leave,” said Rooney.

And that was him. Cowher’s influence on the Steelers was immediate. They reached the playoffs in each of its first six seasons and reached the Super Bowl in 1996 before falling to the Dallas Cowboys.

But the standards of success in Pittsburgh are not what they are elsewhere. The Steelers lost the AFC home championship in 1994 and 1997. A 22-26 route around the turn of the millennium eroded the trust of the team’s ardent fan base.

Cowher’s bosses weren’t worried, however. Instead, they doubled down and offered him a contract extension.

“I can honestly say we never really thought about letting him go at this point,” said Rooney. “It was about just having the feeling that we were going to turn the corner and work hard to get there, to turn the corner.”

The Steelers returned to the playoffs in 2001 but repeated a familiar pattern. In 2001 and 2004 they left the AFC championship games to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Cowher remained optimistic and relied on the principles that drove him from Crafton, Pennsylvania, to the top of his profession.

“We’d be tough,” he said. “We didn’t want to hit ourselves. We’ll come to work every day with our lunch pail and find a way to get it done.

In 2005 they finally made it. Pittsburgh moved into the playoffs as the sixth seed. The Steelers drove through division rivals Cincinnati in the first round, then used Ben Roethlisberger’s tight tackle from Colts defensive back Nick Harper to fend off Peyton Manning and Indianapolis. They dropped top seed Denver the following week to reach the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl.

Two weeks later, Cowher – carried by a wide receiver option pass from Antwaan Randle El to the Hines Ward touchdown pass, the risky calls typical of Cowher’s go-for-break style – triumphantly raised his arms after a 21:10 -Win Seattle that brought the Steelers back to the top.

However, a year later, at the age of 49, he finished. Cowher retired after the 2006 season to spend more time with his wife, Kaye and their three daughters. Although his name continues to be known for vacant NFL jobs after Kaye’s death from skin cancer in 2010, Cowher remains true to his broadcasting job for the CBS pre-game show “NFL Today”.

Cowher misses the relationships and the challenge of navigating a season. However, he does not miss the lifestyle.

“I have so much more balance in my life than ever before,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get anywhere near that again.”


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