It took 15 years but in 2005, Bill Cowher finally won a ring. And gave the Pittsburgh Steelers one for the thumb. Cowher’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL was a long-time coming and the crowning achievement of his Hall of Fame career. Without that Super Bowl on his resume, it’s unlikely he would’ve been inducted into Canton.
But for Cowher, the best part of hoisting the Lombardi trophy was being able to hand it to owner Dan Rooney. Cowher spoke with CBS Digital’s DJ Sixsmith about what that moment was like and what it meant to him.
“It meant a lot,” Cowher told Sixsmith. “The biggest thing it meant to me was being able to hand Dan Rooney the trophy my 14th year.”
It was the team’s fifth trophy and the first they had one since the dynasty of the 70s, a long drought of close-calls and also a lot of tribulation. Even in Cowher’s recent coaching career. Two years earlier, they were a 6-10 team nearly drafting in the top ten. But they put together an elite defense, found gems on offense like RB Willie Parker, and of course, drafted Ben Roethlisberger.
It was Cowher’s second time taking the Steelers to the Super Bowl. The first came in 1995, a heart-breaking loss to the Dallas Cowboys that saw QB Neil O’Donnell throw three back-breaking interceptions. Still a young coach, Cowher thought he would immediately get back to another Super Bowl. He did. But it was a long ten seasons.
“Being there ten years earlier, thinking we’ll get back. But you don’t get back. You get back ten years later. We went through a series of challenges in those ten years. Whether it was the people I was working with. Whether it was making changes at quarterback, coaches, and all the lessons I learned.”
The Steelers went through many quarterbacks from O’Donnell to Kordell Stewart to *gulp* Kent Graham to Tommy Maddox before landing on Roethlisberger, finally bridging that gap from Terry Bradshaw as the Steelers’ next great big thing. There were internal struggles, a fallout with Tom Donahoe that led to Cowher winning the power struggle and Donahoe moving on. But it all came together for a magical run in ’05, the first sixth seed to win it all.
In his new book, Heart and Steel, coming out on June 1st, Cowher says he talks about his career with more depth and candor than ever before.
“I think as you read the book I reveal a lot more than I ever had before. I would play things close to the vest when I was coaching. I didn’t give a lot of info. This one is pretty transparent. You’ll see who I was, where I ended up, why I stepped down, what that entailed, the next transition of life, and where I am today. It’s a series of transitions we all go through.”