feel that no one on the South Side thinks Pittsburgh is going to the Super Bowl."> feel that no one on the South Side thinks Pittsburgh is going to the Super Bowl.">

Art Rooney, II goes with his gut

President Rooney said plenty about the state of the Pittsburgh Steelers' front office when offering some rationale for extending head coach Bill Cowher, "We have a lot of young players on the roster and we feel that Coach Cowher will do a great job developing these young players into a championship caliber football team." In way of a response, we <b>feel</b> that no one on the South Side <i>thinks</i> Pittsburgh is going to the Super Bowl.

Why extend Bill Cowher now?

The press certainly wanted to know and all President Rooney could offer was the same kind reason that Cowher gave for starting RB Amos Zereoue, "I think the most important reason was that we feel that with the number of young players that we have on this team that it would be important to have stability in having them come along and develop."

And we feel that Cowher has been let off the hook, at least in the short term.

Is President Rooney sure about his decision?

"Again, a lot of good young players hopefully are coming up that we feel that he and the staff that he has put together will do a good job with," said Rooney in response to a question about why the Pittsburgh Steelers did not wait until after this season to re-evaluate Cowher.

Did Rooney consult a psychic?

Does he really believe that Cowher can deliver a Super Bowl championship to Pittsburgh?

"We certainly believe Bill can do that and with the cast of players that are developing here, we think we will have a chance to do that hopefully in the course of the next four years that we have him under contract," Rooney explained.

While Rooney did state that they "feel we will be able to contend this year," the rest of his press conference stressed "youth" and "developing" talent. In a nutshell, Cowher is being given time to develop the young talent on this team.

The sights seem squarely set on either Miami in 2007 or Arizona in 2008.

The pick of QB Ben Roethlisberger in this year's draft told us plenty about the prospects for 2004. We believe that Cowher's extension is a vote of confidence for Ben, that the Steelers think he can carry this team.

Essentially, the surrender of 2004 began with the unsuccessful attempt to sign OLB Marcus Washington. No matter how hard the Steelers try to spin it, signing Clark Haggans was the backup plan.

The Steelers lost a bidding war with the Washington Redskins, who gave Marcus a 6-year deal worth $24 million, with a $7 million signing bonus. Instead, the Steelers give Haggans a 4-year deal worth half of Washington's at $12 million and just a $3 million signing bonus.

Certainly, the Skins overpaid for Washington as did the Arizona Cardinals for the services of S Dexter Jackson, but you can be sure that the Steelers were in the ballpark, well above what Haggans signed for. At least, we feel that to be the case.

The Steelers have already decided to throw inexperienced safeties Troy Polamalu and Chris Hope to the wolves. Actually, it is about time Cowher went in this direction. The real litmus test will be how much playing time Ricardo Colclough and Ike Taylor receive this coming season.

The early word is that Colclough should play quite a bit and that Taylor really impressed during the spring drills. Cowher is known to shy away from the youngsters, instead coddling his prized veterans.

We believe that Cowher's extension will allow him to break that habit in order to develop "these young players into a championship caliber football team."

The Steelers did not make any bold moves to shore up the offensive line nor did they succeed in upgrading the pass rush, at least personnel-wise.

Much of the moves, or the lack thereof, during the off-season fueled our suspicion that the Steelers are in the process of rebuilding. However, Cowher's extension and Rooney's emphatic point about developing the young talent as the reason for that extension allows us to move beyond what we feel and what we believe.

If President Rooney really thought Cowher could win the Super Bowl in the next two seasons, there would be no reason for an extension. After all, this isn't an underachieving team in Tampa Bay in need of a fresh perspective. This is a team in dire need of talent at too many key positions, and that includes quarterback.

Who will Ben throw to when the Steelers go for it 2006 and 2007? Right now, that's the big mystery.


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