While we are still waiting to learn the identity of the eventual other 19 members of the 2020 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, we were privileged to have already learned who one of them will be. Prior to last night’s game, it was revealed that former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher was selected as one of the coaches to make it as part of the Centennial Slate of the Hall’s class for the league’s 100th anniversary.
Cowher, who is an analyst at CBS now, of course, and one of the better ones, was surprised by Hall president David Baker on-air with the announcement, but he still found the composure to deliver some thoughtful words.
“I have come to grips, I am okay if it doesn’t happen”, he said that he had just told his wife. “I have been so blessed. To the eight candidates, every one of you deserve to be there. I have had some great players, some great coaches, the best organization in football. I have lived a blessed life. I have come to the best network on TV. It’s a family here like it was a family we had there. To have to give back to something to the game of football that has been a part of my life. The virtues it teaches you, the morals you have the obligation to move on, the platforms we have. I am a blessed man”.
Cowher was hired to succeed Chuck Noll in 1992. He took the Steelers to the postseason in each of his first six seasons, only the second head coach to ever do that, bringing the team to the Super Bowl at the end of the 1995 season.
He followed that with three consecutive non-playoff seasons, including two losing seasons, before rebounding with a 13-3 year in 2001. His story changed after a 6-10 year in 2003, after which he would draft Ben Roethlisberger.
The team went 15-1 in Roethlisberger’s rookie season of 2004, and then finally gave him his long-awaited Super Bowl trophy at end of the 2005 season, the then record-tying fifth for the franchise. He coached one more season before retiring and giving way to Mike Tomlin.
“I don’t think it’s hit me yet”, Cowher later said upon being hit with the exciting news. “What can I say? I just think about the players. I think about the Pittsburgh franchise. Dan Rooney when he hired me. He took a chance on a 34-year kid from Crafton, Pennsylvania. My first goal was not to get fired by my 20th high school class reunion”.
He never did get fired. In fact, the Steelers haven’t had to fire a head coach since 1969, when they originally hired Noll. They’ve only had three since then. Perhaps one day, all three will be in the Hall of Fame. They are only one of three teams, along with the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, to have three different coaches win a Super Bowl title. Their six is tied with the New England Patriots for the most all-time, and all three have contributed significantly to the Steelers’ modern-era legacy.