Veterans Beware?

Back in 1993, while talking to tight end Jonathan Hayes, I asked him if he heard many of Marty Schottenheimer's speeches from Bill Cowher when he was talking to the team.

Hayes, who had played several years for Schottenheimer in Kansas City before joining the Steelers that season, simply smiled and replied, "All the time."

In addition, therein lies the trouble with coaches like Schottenheimer and Cowher.

They are both considered master motivators, coaches who are more about pushing the right buttons with their teams rather than being Xs and Os kind of coaches.

Perhaps that is the problem Cowher faces with this current group of Steelers.

Prior to the 2002 season, Cowher liked to bring up the fact that the team he was bringing back was largely the same one that the Steelers had fielded in 2001.

And despite the fact the Steelers stumbled to a 10-5-1 record in 2002 - a falloff of three victories from the previous season – the lineup remained largely unchanged this season, also.

In fact, the nucleus of this team has largely been around the past four seasons.

And you know what. Not only do the players get older and start to lose their effectiveness, but so, too, do Cowher's speeches.

The veterans on this team have heard all of the speeches, all of the stories, all of the rah, rah, sis, boom-bah that they can stomach.

And sooner or later, they start to tune the coach out.

How can Cowher get their attention again? Benching Dewayne Washington is a start.

If you cannot get the attention of under producing veterans with words, you had better be able to do it with actions.

Benching a player of Washington's locker room stature – he is a stand-up guy and well liked by his teammates – was something Cowher never would have considered in the past.

Cowher would change quarterbacks like underwear. But bench a defensive starter? No way.

This is the guy, after all, who continued to run Lee Flowers onto the field last season despite the fact he knew Flowers was killing the team's pass defense and he had veteran Mike Logan sitting on the bench.

But Washington's benching should have Jason Gildon and others taking notice.

Maybe Cowher has learned a lesson or two over the years. Or maybe he just could not stand to see Washington on the field missing tackles and not covering anyone any longer.

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