Meet your mentor

The subplot of Monday's game will remain on the sidelines as both coaches face each other for the seventh time. While they remain fixtures on the wrong side of the bounds markings, the gameplans they bring to the table will be instrumental in the outcome.

Western Pennsylvania products Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Cowher will reunite Monday when the Chargers and Steelers square off in San Diego.

Cowher, who worked under Schottenheimer in Kansas City and Cleveland, owns a 4-2 record against his old boss.

His principles are closely tied to the man he learned under so long ago. In fact, Cowher keeps the same practice format he learned from Schottenheimer some 15 years prior.

"Given the fact he's the only guy I have ever worked for, a lot of who I am and how we do things and what I believe in comes from Marty," said Cowher. "Having worked for him, I have so much respect for Marty. I think he's one of the best coaches in the game today and what he's done over a period of time speaks for itself. He's been one of the most consistent coaches year in and year out. He brings an understanding and commitment to the game. His consistency is unmatched by any coach that has coached the game."

Schottenheimer has bounced around some while Cowher has remained in Pittsburgh.

These days the mentor has found his home in San Diego by adapting his teachings and game to the strengths of his team.

That, says Cowher, is a trait he has always possessed.

"I've been with Marty before and he adapts his football team to the people he has," noted Cowher. "He doesn't pick a philosophy and say, ‘This is what were going to do.' He's always takes players and puts players in a situation where they can succeed whatever that necessitates. He's going to take what he has and he's going to put himself in a situation where his players can succeed."

Success was proven a year ago when his Chargers won the AFC West and he appears to have gotten through to his team again this year as they have rebounded from an 0-2 start, trouncing their last two opponents.

This past week Schottenheimer worked closely with the defense to better their play.

When asked why his pass rush has improved, the mentor said he has become the student.

"We're taking a couple pages out of Coach Cowher's book," Schottenheimer said.

But when the lights turn on, the game becomes about the players.

"You don't really look at the coach," said Cowher. "You certainly look at the team."

While that is true, certain fundamentals will be stressed by each coach. Schottenheimer knows that Cowher will run the football – it has been a staple of the Pittsburgh offense from the start. And the same holds true of what Schottenheimer preaches.

Both coaches are extremely competitive and neither has taken the opportunity to say just how much a win would mean.

Pittsburgh ose tackle Casey Hampton suspects the game might have added meaning to his coach.

"He probably won't say it to us, but I'm pretty sure it does," Hampton said. "He's a competitive guy. That's how he is. He just won't say anything about it, but it will be there."

And so it is the mentor and the pupil on Monday night in a game that pits two teams who won their respective divisions a year ago.

That is a battle worth watching.

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