The 2020 offseason should prove to be an interesting one for Pittsburgh Steelers fans as it as much looks ahead to its future while also celebrating its past. Thanks to the 100th anniversary of the league, and the introduction of the Centennial Slate, Steelers fans know that they will be celebrating the enshrinement of at least two of their own this Summer, and perhaps up to four.
Troy Polamalu is in his first year of eligibility, and the consensus seems to be that he should get in right away. Alan Faneca’s prospects are not as bright, but still very much in the realm of possibility, where he will be competing with two other offensive linemen among 15 finalists for five spots.
Already known are Donnie Shell, the strong safety of the Steel Curtain era, and Bill Cowher, the man who brought the fifth Lombardi to the Steel City after it had paraded around the league and into other cities for a quarter of a century.
Cowher had the unenviable task of replacing a legend in Chuck Noll, albeit a legend who was on his last legs with respect to his coaching career. Most of the 1980s were not exactly the high point of Steelers football, to be sure. But it was clear to the Steelers that Cowher was the man for the job.
“In fairness you have to approach those things without saying we are going to hire a hometown guy”, said Steelers president Art Rooney II when speaking about that process of hiring a new coach for the first time in nearly 25 years. “That doesn’t happen very often, and you are careful not to allow that to sway you”. It did, though, at least a bit.
“In Bill’s case, part of his makeup, part of what he brought to the table, was that attitude”, said Rooney, who at the time was still under his father, Dan Rooney. “I think there is no other way to describe it but a Pittsburgh attitude. In this case that was clearly an asset we saw in him”.
No doubt, the lineage of Steelers head coaches from Noll to Cowher and now to Mike Tomlin, who is preparing to go into his 14th season, has within it a commonality of character traits that, while not necessarily native to Pittsburgh, are nonetheless reminiscent of what is accepted as the city’s personality.
Bill, though, grew up in Pittsburgh. He was born in a suburb of the city and attended high school at Carlynton. He did end up at NC State, but found himself back in Pennsylvania with the Philadelphia Eagles for much of his relatively brief playing career.
“The fact that he grew up in Pittsburgh and was a Pittsburgh guy, he brought that kind of Pittsburgh feel to the team”, Rooney said. “There was a toughness that he brought and determination he brought. It really was one of those things that I think he certainly was the right guy at the right time for us and obviously it worked out pretty well”.