Ordinarily, Bill Cowher doesn’t get talked about as much as he is right now unless Mike Tomlin isn’t doing a very good job with the Pittsburgh Steelers at any one moment. We are now a long way away from the argument that Tomlin is winning with Cowher’s players, since only one of them is even remaining (and even he hardly played last year), after all.
But with it being announced that he is going to be a member of the 2020 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it seems fitting to indulge in some good old praise and discussion of The Chin. We even got a bit of that from Art Rooney II, who was not yet team president while Cowher was still on the Steelers’ sidelines
Rooney spoke with Stan Savran recently, with the audio posted on the team’s website, and among the topics that he was asked referenced a quote from Cowher given to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in which he seemed to say that the reason he never really contemplated coaching again is because he didn’t want to coach anywhere but Pittsburgh, or for anybody but the Rooneys.
Art II was asked about that comment, and in light of that remark, he revealed that he never expected it to play out in that fashion.
“It’s funny. When he decided to step away, I thought that he would come back someday, and I thought that maybe he would come back with another team if he really wanted to coach”, Rooney said. “As you know, he was still pretty young when he stepped away. Like I said, I really thought he would probably come back at some point”.
Cowher was 35 by the start of his first season in Pittsburgh in 1992, and he resigned from the job 15 years later just before turning 50 years old. There are quite a few coaches who are well into their 60s currently in the NFL, so there was certainly still time for him to return to the sideline if he really wanted to. I’m sure he received a number of significant offers.
“We stayed in touch over the years, and as time went on, I kind of got the impression that he was enjoying what he was doing”, Rooney said of Cowher working in broadcasting. “Over the years, I thought the chances of him coming back were certainly getting less and less. But initially, I thought there was a chance that he would come back and coach somewhere, if not here”.
Tomlin was hired to take over in 2007, and he has been here since, going on 14 seasons now. It’s interesting that Rooney felt that Cowher might end up back in Pittsburgh one day, but clearly that opportunity never arose, as Tomlin has been a very accomplished successor, currently with a winning percentage of .643, .20 points higher than Cowher’s.