Bill Cowher, one would hope, knows a little something about the Pittsburgh Steelers. After all, he spent 15 years coaching them, brought them to two Super Bowls and helped them win their first since the 1979 season when they got over the hump with a second-year Ben Roethlisberger in 2005.
Cowher’s teams toiled away with a parade of mediocrity at quarterback, with brief highlights from the likes of Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart, but it’s not, I think, a great coincidence that Roethlisberger’s emergence coincided with a new era of quality football in Pittsburgh, which has, despite the protestations of the doubters, continued to this day.
Roethlisberger is facing an interesting challenge this season, however, without Antonio Brown, and Cowher, interviewed for the local CBS station, thought it will be important for the veteran quarterback to prioritize not trying to overcompensate.
“I think the biggest thing is don’t try to do too much. I think he’s in that mode right now where he’s gonna prove that we’re more than just those players, and we’re more a team”, he said. “I think Ben looks like he’s in great shape, but I think the biggest thing for him is just to make sure he doesn’t try to do too much and try to take on too much upon his shoulders and rely on everybody else that he has”.
Roethlisberger did lead the NFL in passing yardage last season with over 5100 yards, and also threw a franchise-record 34 touchdown passes. He put up the numbers you want to see, but the results on the final scoreboard were lacking.
In part because of that, and in part because of the headlines made elsewhere around the league—and in the AFC North—Cowher observed, “I think for the first time they’re kind of flying under the radar a little bit”.
“All the talk has been about Baker Mayfield and Odell up in Cleveland”, he said, “and Lamar Jackson’s second year in Baltimore after getting into the playoffs last year. And then Zac Taylor, a new coach coming in in Cincinnati, so I think that whole division, I think, has really something to be looking forward to”.
The Steelers did technically finish only a half-game out of its fifth consecutive postseason berth a year ago, so I’ve always felt that the doom-and-gloom skepticism was over the top, personally, but they have had a good offseason that has offered encouragement even in the post-Brown offense.
“I think they’ve had a good camp up there”, Cowher concluded. “We’ll see how they get through the preseason, but the offensive line, defensive line are very, very solid, and if they can stay healthy, they’re gonna be a tough out”.