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Bill Cowher Knows He Passed Along A ‘Well-Oiled Machine’ In Pittsburgh After He Retired: ‘Just Don’t Screw It Up’

The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the best teams in the NFL throughout most of former head coach Bill Cowher’s tenure. Sure, they had a lull or two along the way, but rarely were they not competitive. They were just incomplete, without ever truly having the answer under center until near the very end with Ben Roethlisberger, drafted in 2004.

The Steelers drafted the big quarterback from Miami of Ohio with an eye toward developing him. They were a veteran team up and down the roster with a ready-to-compete defense. It’s no surprise they went 15-1 during his rookie season and won the Super Bowl a year later. Cowher retired after one more season after that, and he understood what he was walking away from.

“I know this was a team that was gonna win. We could have won, as you did three years later again. But we built that team and it was a special team and I knew when I walked away it was really hard”, he said on Roethlisberger’s Footbahlin’ podcast. “It was a well-oiled machine, just don’t screw it up”.

Cowher, who stepped away after 15 seasons as Steelers head coach for family reasons, was succeeded by Mike Tomlin, who captured a Super Bowl in his second year on the job in 2008. They made it back in 2010, only to fall to the Green Bay Packers.

There is a popular narrative within the Steelers fan base that Tomlin won “with Cowher’s players”. Of course, he did, since he was coaching many of the players that Cowher and his staff originally brought into the fold, though Tomlin was the one who made James Harrison a starter and drafted LaMarr Woodley, giving the Steelers the lethal pass rush that drove the 2008 Super Bowl run.

Nobody can deny that Tomlin inherited an excellent situation, a young franchise quarterback and a veteran defense. But winning the Super Bowl with any roster is no small matter, regardless of how many of those players you had a hand in bringing along. After all, Cowher only won the Super Bowl once.

And so has Tomlin, up to this point. Indeed, he has now gone six years without even winning a playoff game, a streak that certainly needs to be put to bed sooner rather than later. This is more Tomlin’s team than ever before, including a hand-picked quarterback in Kenny Pickett, drafted in the first round a year ago.

Even though he has already been here for 16 years, it’s almost as if he is just now in the second half of his legacy in Pittsburgh. Can he produce another Super Bowl champion before he hangs it up in the post-Roethlisberger era? If he wins one with “his” players, how much does that change his story?

Winning two Super Bowls in and of itself is significantly greater than winning one, as is being able to do so with two different quarterbacks, something not many head coaches have done. Tomlin doesn’t talk like he’s retiring any time soon, so we’d better hope he has at least one more in him. And hopefully he passes on to his successor a team just as good as the one he inherited from Cowher.

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