Inside the Pittsburgh Steelers

Bill Cowher spent the past week in what has been a good state for him - the state of Hawaii, where he's undefeated yet ungrateful for it.

Cowher is 4-0 as coach of the AFC over the past 11 years, something to be proud of if only the circumstances of how he got those jobs weren't documented so well. The AFC Pro Bowl coach and his staff earn that honor by losing the AFC championship game, and Cowher wants to end his legacy in that game and start building one in the Super Bowl.

"I'm tired of coaching Pro Bowls," Cowher said during the NFL's annual meetings in Maui.

Team president Art Rooney II declared the past week that it's time the Steelers win one, after a 25-year drought.

"There is no question," said Cowher. "I agree; no one wants it more than myself, our team and my staff."

The Steelers went 15-1 last season, but flopped again in the AFC championship game at home. It followed a season in which the Steelers went 6-10. It will be difficult for them to match both their 2004 record and the attitude that prevailed on their team last season.

"I think there's a greater challenge this year coming back with that same look in our eye than there was the year before," Cowher said, "because there was low expectation. There was an uneasiness with our team based on how we finished the year before."

It was easy to motivate last year's team. They matched their worst record under Cowher and they widely picked to finish third in the AFC North. Even Cowher acknowledged many would pick them to win the AFC North again this season.

"Going into this season there will be talk of this football team being one of the preseason favorites," Cowher said. "Those are the things you have to fight. Complacency can create a lot of disappointment if you are not careful. I think that is the challenge we have."
  • Notes:

    Rooney and Bill Cowher predicted Jerome Bettis will play another season, but they hedged their bets somewhat. Bettis re-signed with the Steelers to lower his salary but has said he will not decide whether to retire or play until perhaps June 1.

    "He knows he has to do what he has to do to get ready," Rooney said. "I think until he does that and gets through that training program, he's not going to be sure that he's got the commitment to it that he has to have. I think that's why he's kind of kept it open, because he's not sure."

    Said Cowher, "My understanding was that (he will play), unless there's a setback in his training, as he starts to prepare, as he starts to get closer, I think that will be the determining factor. But I think his mindset is that he wants to come back."

    The Steelers have signed only 49ers receiver Cedrick Wilson from the outside in free agency and there may be no one else they go after. TE Marco Battaglia, who did not play last season, paid them a visit and he could rejoin them (he played part of the 2002 season in Pittsburgh).

    "We'll keep our eyes open and see if something turns up that looks like it makes sense," Rooney said. "We're not done-done, but we're not out there searching for a big signing at this point."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They don't have a gun to their heads. As soon as you put a gun to their heads maybe it'll change. The clock is ticking. Maybe they'll get brains soon." - Dan Rooney on stalled negotiations for a new CBA.


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