Q&A: Bill Cowher

One for the Thumb. One for the Bus. One for the Rooneys. How about one for William Laird Cowher?


You said you wanted nothing more than to give Dan Rooney the trophy. What did it feel like to give him the trophy?
Very special. Just for the whole organization, for the City of Pittsburgh. And to give it to him, he's what's great about the NFL. I'm very fortunate and blessed to work for organization and a man like that.

Talk about the interception. And then the huge play after that.
The one that went the other way?

Well, that was big too, but you got the big one that stopped their momentum.
You're talking about that one? He's a killer. It was a big play by Ike. He actually dropped one earlier in the game. But our defense just, they just stepped up when they had to, they really did. I thought the biggest thing was the first half was we couldn't do anything on the field all the way through the second quarter and defensively they picked it up and they kept it in there when it was 3-0. We could have been real down. But we came out, and to be up 7-3, that was a big thing.

Did that convince you to try to do the trick play?
It was just a great time for it. It was a good call by the offense. And obviously it worked so it was a good call.

This is not the first time he's done that, that pass?
No, it's not. He's a special guy. It was a huge play. They covered it and he kind of escaped it. He's made big plays and then he makes a bootleg there on his own and he makes a first down. We still played great. The play makers on offense and our defense they played really strong down the stretch. And like I said, it's a special team.

Talk about Jerome right now.
Well, this means so much to the team because -- this is a blessing. Jerome is a great guy. The way he played off the field, he brings so much class and professionalism to our team. If it is his last game, what a great way to go out. He's a Hall of Fame running back.

Yeah, I was pretty amazed when we came out. And we didn't realize that -- we didn't think we would have to lose the crowd, but we had some trouble early because it seems like the fans were so wound up that even when we had the ball, we still couldn't hear. We had to call a verbal on the third down because we couldn't hear. Just because of the buzz and all the noise.

We had some third and longs. I thought he was better in the second half. Obviously there was one throw he would like to have back. But outside of that I thought he did some great things.

We talked about that eight weeks ago. We wiped the slate clean and we kind of took a little of that old saying, one game at a time. But each week was a unique set of circumstances. But with that approach we gained some confidence and we started to have a pretty good team and the last win at Indy, I thought that probably helped us more than anything else, because it allowed us to prepare for the noise we had to deal with on the road in the playoffs.

I'm just happy for him. It was for him. He's a special guy and I'm happy for him, the city of Pittsburgh, and he's what's right about the National Football League. I'm very fortunate and blessed to work for a guy like that. He's a very inspired individual. He looks at you and he makes you want to work as hard as you can to succeed.

The Christopher Columbus speech, what was that about?
Yeah, the old Christopher Columbus speech. Guys kind of like that. We talked about it the other day and I said we're going to get the periscopes instead of telescopes because we don't know if we're on a submarine or a ship. So I did a little twist to it every now and then. But you know what, I think the purpose of it the meaning of it is to Columbus got on that boat and a lot of people told him not to go out there because they said the world was flat. And he just kept going and he found the new world. And that's what I told them. There's a lot of people telling you can't do it, but you know what, that doesn't mean you don't go try. And like I said, history is not going to determine our fate, but our effort today made history. And that's what's special to me.

Jerome said he was retiring, when did he speak to you, because he said he talked to the Rooneys last week.
Yeah, you know what, because it's about the game of football, it wasn't about what happens afterwards.

When did he tell you? When did he tell you?
You know what, I just heard him on the program say that his last stop's going to be in Detroit. So I guess I was kind of deciphered meaning as it was his last game.

You didn't have a conversation with him?
No, no. You saw it. I just answer questions. It wasn't a meaningful conversation here yet. But he's a special man and I'm sure we'll talk soon.

It was very -- the one to Jerome, we wanted him to lead the team out. And we all came out as a team. Joey Porter thought that was important. And he told us, he told the team that that's what we're going to do.

What do you think about the jersey switch?
The jersey switch?

The white.
It was an away game. We didn't play at Heinz Field, so.

Talk about the quarterbacks now. The biggest play comes from one of your wide receivers. What does this say about your offense?
Well, we got some special players who have some special skills. That's the thing. We tried to utilize what they do best and he makes good decisions. And he knows how to block too. It was a good call at the right time and it always looks good if it works.

He had everything. It's a special group of guys. To see what we did to get here, you know, it was a bond that's created. And this team grew closer these last eight weeks. The road we took to get here with the away games and the fighting every day, you know, it's just, to me I'm happy for them. I'm happy for Mr. Rooney and happy for the city of Pittsburgh. And like I said, it's a very humbling experience right now.

What was the difference in the end?
You know what, we really didn't run the ball very good this post season. I was just talking about that. The running game got going for the second half and it really kind of took care of that on the second play. But our quarterback played well, we had a great balance in this post season. Defense stepped up. We were getting plays made. We were playing the best football at the right time of the year at the end of the season.

Do you think owners should be more patient with their coaches?
I certainly think that in this business it's hard to sustain it. I think if you have good people and people who you can trust, people who you can communicate with. And you got to just trust. We still have to win. We still have to win. We work in a performance-based business. I don't think I'm in a position to tell an owner what to do. They know the situation. I think patience is a virtue if you have the right person.

It wasn't necessarily the Steelers best all around game they were saying, and in fact you guys have played many better games than you did tonight, Ben said that, he said that this wasn't necessarily your best overall performance, but obviously it's the most important win. Can you talk about how sometimes you don't have to play your best game to do it?
There's no question. Like I said, we never go off track on offense. I thought defensively we played our tail off. But we made the plays on offense when we had to. Ben made plays when he had to. I just think it's a sign of a good football team when you come out and not play your best football and still win the games. If we didn't have a bye week or weren't playing so well, but you know, just going through all of the logistics of getting the family here and the just the experience. You know, our guys gelled last week. And it was a heck of an experience. And we were able to top it off like this and that's very special.

In your heart can you talk about what you're feeling right now?
I'm just really happy for the players and coaches. I'm happy for everybody else. Honestly, because when you say what the sacrifices they made and they have done everything I've asked them to do, and to see it pay off, that's special. And I'm happy for Mr. Rooney. I'm happy for the support and, you talk about a class guy. He's a very inspiring individual. And he's inspired me. It's a very humbling experience with him.

Detroit was great. Detroit was great. It's such a sports city. That's to me why I look at Detroit. You look at you get a chance to see the Pistons, the Red Wings who are playing the same night, Swin Cash, my favorite WNBA player. I got basketball in my family, so that's big. And then obviously the Lions and the Tigers and Jim coming up here to coach the Tigers, he's a good friend of mine. I love Detroit. I think Detroit's a sports city. And they did a fantastic job here of plan playing host to us. So I heard nothing negative at all.

Ben took some big chances, what did you say to Ben today?
Ben's tough. He's resilient. Think about what he's done in two year's time. It's kind of mind-boggling really.

You win early and probably people, you buy yourself maybe a couple down years. You got to have support. People like Kevin Colbert coming in, he's added a lot of years to, he's added a lot of years to my career. And Mr. Rooney, and the assistant coaching staff, I can't say enough about them. And the players. It's an unselfish group of coaches and players, the best I've ever been around.

I don't know. Like I said, I don't know, this may not hit me for a couple days. Probably when I'm sitting home some time with my family and away from all this, that's when it will hit me.

Yeah, that was special. To be able to hand him that. Because he's a special man. When you huddled up with your girls and your wife, what were you saying to them?
Those four women are very important to me. They're the ones that, they mean the most. I'm the head coach today, but I tell you what tomorrow I go back to being an assistant coach. Because the head coach will be telling me what to do. I got a basketball game to go to tomorrow. Because the girls got to be back in school by 1 o'clock. So I'm going to watch my kids play ball and that's the way it should be and that's where I want to be.

Do you remember what you said to them though exactly?
I don't know. I really don't. It's been so much -- my kids were talking to me, I know one said, daddy, we're world champions. And I thought like, well, yeah, I guess we are. It's just, I don't know, it was special to have them all there though.

A lot of people are now going to say that this validates your career. What, to you, what does this mean?
This is not about me. It's about this team, it's about this ownership, it's about the coaches and players. I don't worry about what people say. I can't control that. I'm not in it for my validation. I'm in it because I really enjoy the group of players and the challenges that you get in trying to bring people together to see them experience this and they have been working so hard, that is very gratifying to me.

The big play, the third downplay, was that just Ben and Hines having that kind of communication?
Yeah, that's Ben. Sometimes he makes that throw and you say, no, no, no. And then he made that one and it was yes, yes, yes. So he tests your patience with him. I just sit there and just go, I go with him, because he's a gamer. He's our guy. So.

It is special. Because it's a chance for this group to take a rich tradition that we have had in Pittsburgh and that is special, but to say that I now have a little piece of that as well, can I say that.

Does that make it sweeter?
I don't know if it's sweeter. Any time you win something for the first time it's special.

We talked. Those are very sensitive issues. And I understood where everyone was at and I just try to keep talking through it with them. And I know how much he's meant to this organization and what he does. And he's out there every week. Yeah, there may be faster receivers, there may be guys with better hands, but I tell you what, I wouldn't want another receiver than Hines Ward. The way he plays the game, the passion, he's so competitive, he's smart. I love the guy.

You say Ben tests your patience. What do you mean by that?
Well, I don't know if he tests your patience, that's probably not the right word. You got to let him go. Sometimes you look at him and know he's fighting through it, but he'll come out of it. He's extremely mature for a guy in the second year. Sometimes you got to just keep that in mind. Yeah, he will make plays. The play that he bootlegged on, he did that by himself. No one did that. And he got the first down.

How much can he improve?
I think he's going to get better. I think he'll get better, he'll get more comfortable in the offense, we'll start to give him more leeway to do things and the best is way ahead of him.

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