When the clock reached triple zeroes at the end of Super Bowl XL on February 5, 2006 at Ford Field in Detroit, the 21-10 win by the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Seattle Seahawks gave one of the stalwart franchises in professional football its first Lombardi Trophy in more than a quarter century.
Not only did the win in Super Bowl XL give the Steelers five Super Bowl championships in franchise history, tying the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers for the most in NFL history, it allowed former Steelers’ head coach, Hall of Famer, and CBS Sports analyst Bill Cowher to fulfill his goal as the head coach of his hometown team, while also proving naysayers wrong, getting over the hump to win the big game.
During his career in Pittsburgh as head coach, Cowher reached the playoffs 10 times in 14 seasons, but had come up painstakingly short time and time again. So that night in Detroit finally winning his first Super Bowl, he followed through on his driving goal to hand owner Dan Rooney that sterling silver trophy.
Many years later, that moment still holds a special place in Cowher’s heart, and reminded him what resiliency truly is. Appearing on the Half-Forgotten History podcast with host Trey Wingo, Cowher recalled winning Super Bowl XL and how special that feeling was to finally get over the hump and win a ring, which ultimately helped him earn a spot in Canton.
“It was a special team…getting that one for the thumb and for Mr. Rooney, giving it to him 14 years after he hired me, that was a really special moment for me to be able to handle that Lombardi trophy, finally, that one for the thumb after 26 years,” Cowher said to Wingo, according to audio from the podcast.
That moment, special in its own right for reaching the mountaintop in his profession and adding achieving a key milestone in his coaching career, also meant something to Cowher from a teaching aspect overall, one that he still carries with him today, especially after coming up short time and time again in the AFC Championship Game, compiling a career 2-4 record in those games, causing questions to arise about his ability to get over the hump and win the big one.
“You know what, Trey, to me, it just reemphasized the element of being resilient and the element of not allowing a disappointment or getting knocked down define who you are,” Cowher said. “I continued to come back, never lost confidence in what we were doing, who we were doing it with and just the resiliency of that. And just to also believe that sometimes the faith that Mr. Rooney had in me and, and how much I was appreciative of that, and I go back and I said, you know, yes, you’re gonna get defined by things. But I was very proud of the fact what we did year in and year out how competitive we were, how we represented the city in a manner with which it was pretty replica of who we were. We were a tough team. We were a physical team.
“We were a humble team, and we were very proud of who we were and where we came from. And that to me was what, you know, a professional football was all about. And I was very proud of that,” Cowher added. “In those 15 years, we had some tough, tough and disappointing losses, but I almost feel like they defined also who we were the ability to continue to get up when you get knocked down and not let that define you, that we were resilient. We were tough. We were competitive and we were humble.
“And so those are the things that, and I try to take with me as we go down through it, that sustainability is a culture and a culture is something that you have to breed and you have to develop. And it’s about the people you bringing around you, coaches and players. And again, it starts at the top in the Rooney family. They were the best leaders that were in National Football League.”
Cowher truly was Pittsburgh through and through, personifying that blue collar work ethic and mentality every single time he stepped onto the sidelines during his 15 seasons at the helm of the Steelers, teaching fans and players alike what it meant to get up off the mat and respond the right way, influencing many over the years.