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Bill Cowher Breaks Down Key to Steelers Consistency



Steelers HOF Coach Bill Cowher
Bill Cowher at the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame parade in Canton, Ohio. -- Ed Thompson / PSN

When it comes to organization stability, there’s no better franchise in all of North American professional sports than the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have had just three coaches since 1969 — Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. Noll and Cowher are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Tomlin is pretty much a lock to be in Canton someday, as well. Former Steelers owner Dan Rooney hired all three. On Thursday, Bill Cowher talked about the Steelers’ first-rate consistency and what separates them from the rest of the league on the Pat McAfee Show.

“You know Pat, I think it starts at the top,” Cowher said. “When Dan Rooney hired me it was a family type of atmosphere. And now it’s Art and before Dan it was The Chief. It was all about culture. It was about a selflessness. (The Rooneys) bought the team based on them winning money at the racetrack. They lived on the North Side. Mr. Rooney went to North Catholic. You felt it when you walked in the (Pittsburgh Steelers building), you leave your ego at the door. We are all Pittsburgh Steelers. The responsibly that we have to represent this city, to represent this team with what it really means to be a professional and to be a hard-working, blue-collar, no nonsense, no thrills, competitive, knock me down but I’ll get back up because I’ll be the most resilient thing you have ever faced. And, you know what, that’s who we were. That was the obligation we had. Mike has taken it and ran with it.”

Bill Cowher was the probably the most emotional and intense coach in the league during his tenure. His passion earned him the nickname “The Chin” in Pittsburgh, as his chin would stick out and spit would fly out of his mouth when he was irate.

“I wanted to walk onto that field with a swagger, a bounce, a cockiness, maybe short of being a little bit arrogant,” Cowher said about his coaching philosophy. “The only thing I asked (my players) to do is don’t cross the line. What’s crossing the line? Disrespecting the game, disrespecting the opponent or disrespecting a teammate. And if you crossed that line, my job is to pull you back. But, man, I wanted you to walk that line as close as you could. I would rather pull you back than you being too far away (and) afraid to cross it. So we did have a little chippiness about us when we played, we had a little cockiness, a little bounce in our step. That’s how I wanted us to play every week, so I always tried to make the game personal.”

McAfee grew up a Steelers fan in Plum during the 1990s and early 2000s, so he knows all about The Chin.

“Obviously, you’re a Yinzer. We’ve been down in Crafton. You’re a hero there. You coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers with that mentality, Pittsburgh people bought into the team. This is our team. It’s representing our city. It was a perfect fit,” McAfee told Cowher. “Obviously, you’re from there, so you are one of the Pittsburgh people. But when a city and a team’s attitude and mentality match each other, I think that’s when it’s really a beautiful thing. And the Pittsburgh Steelers have been able to get this right now from Noll to you to Tomlin. It’s not that easy everywhere else.”

McAfee mentioned that $800 million was paid to fired coaches around the NFL last year who had guaranteed contracts. McAfee and Cowher both believe there’s a lack of patience across the league from owners.

“That’s the thing. People don’t have patience,” Cowher said. “I think that’s what happen’s with some of the owners who are coming (into the league). And you say what about the Rooneys? They understand. Part of the (coaching) process is going through that learning curve. … “I’ve always said give a coach three years and if you’re not trending upwards and you wanna let him go then I get it.”


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